Economy bites into UFC’s summer business

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BOSTON – The success of the Ultimate Fighting Championship over the past 9½ years has proven that UFC president Dana White isn’t wrong about much when it comes to mixed martial arts.

But White is shocked by the fact that tickets for UFC 118, which will be held at TD Garden on Saturday, are still available.

“Without a doubt, if you asked me if one card would have sold out everything on the first day, it would have been this one,” White said of a slate that features a lightweight title rematch between champion Frankie Edgar and B.J. Penn and a heavyweight tilt between boxer James Toney and Randy Couture. “But this is just another example of the economy. People are really hurting.”

The UFC has not been immune to the economic downturn, as it struggled to sell tickets in Las Vegas, San Diego, Oakland, Calif. and now Boston. Saturday’s card will likely be sold out, but it was far harder than White imagined.

Strangely, though, the UFC’s pay-per-view sales have been largely unaffected. Though the UFC does not release its exact pay-per-view sales figures, three of the last four events are believed to have exceeded 800,000 units and UFC 116 in July eclipsed 1 million.

Those are astonishingly high figures and UFC 118 figures to fall into that same range. Though the ticket sales haven’t been as vigorous, that’s more to do with cost than anything else. Tickets for Saturday’s card range from a low of $75 to a high of $600. That means that for a family of four to sit in the upper deck, it will cost $300 plus parking and concessions.

The high-definition version of the pay-per-view is just $54.95 and, with the ability to make it into a party with multiple people kicking in, it is significantly cheaper.

“Right now, for a lot of people to get out to a live event is having to put out money they don’t have,” White said. “I understand that completely. I’m amazed by how great our fans actually are and how many of them travel to every show. These [expletive] lunatics love this [expletive] and they go everywhere.

“I really thought this would be the one show that we’d put the tickets on sale and, boom, they’d be gone right away. I’m shocked by it, but it shows you how bad this economy still is.”

Friday’s weigh-in results:

Frankie Edgar, 154 vs. B.J. Penn, 154.

James Toney, 237 vs. Randy Couture, 220.

Gray Maynard, 156 vs. Kenny Florian, 156.

Nathan Diaz, 171 vs. Marcus Davis, 170.

Mario Miranda, 185 vs. Demian Maia, 184.

Gabe Ruediger, 155 vs. Joe Lauzon, 156.

Nik Lentz, 155 vs. Andre Winner, 154.

John Salter, 185 vs. Dan Miller, 185.

Greg Soto, 170 vs. Nick Osipczak, 171.

Amilcar Alves 171 (weighed 172 on first attempt) vs. Mike Pierce, 171.

Kevin Iole covers boxing and mixed martial arts for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter. Send Kevin a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated Friday, Aug 27, 2010