Article by Dave Walsh
Jon Jones and Chael Sonnen battled it out at UFC 159 after a lukewarm season of The Ultimate Fighter with both men as coached aired. The Ultimate Fighter has long been used as a way to build up hype for upcoming fights and hopefully boost PPV sales. On top of The Ultimate Fighter, booking Chael Sonnen against Jon Jones was in itself a way to try to boost PPV sales, as Sonnen has a very unique way of promoting fights for the MMA world and tends to draw in a lot of attention.
The good news is that this event comes in around the average for Jon Jones PPV buys at an estimated 520,000 to 550,000 buys. While those numbers are not Mayweather or Lesnar numbers by any stretch of the imagination, for current day UFC they are considered pretty good. Nothing to scoff at, at least, coming in just behind UFC 158 featuring Georges St. Pierre and Nick Diaz.
The bad is that you have to look at these numbers and scrutinize them. The biggest “pop” that Jon Jones has seen in PPV buys has been against a tried and tested draw that is Rashad Evans with years of buildup between the two, with Rashad even going off to form his own team down in Florida and part from Team Jackson. It felt like a big deal at the time and the PPV sales showed that it was a big deal. There are two factors that were at play here, intended to be ways to bolster sales, that fell rather flat; The Ultimate Fighter and Chael Sonnen.
Conventional wisdom within the UFC is that Chael Sonnen will sell tickets and PPVs because we’ve seen him do just that in the past with Anderson Silva. Of course, people believed that Sonnen might actually be able to beat Anderson Silva and Silva responded to Sonnen’s verbal assaults, unlike Jones who opted to keep to the sidelines for most of the promotion leading into the fight. Chael Sonnen might bump up sales in some cases, and he might have done so for this show, but the numbers will never be able to tell that story.
The Ultimate Fighter is the long-stale promotional machine for the UFC and has once again proven that it has outlived its purpose for the company. It instead tied up two of the UFC’s biggest draws for longer than needed to be and saw each man fight once in a period where they could have realistically fought twice and made the company more money. One has to wonder how a fighter like Ronda Rousey feels about The Ultimate Fighter not being a proven way to hype a fight anymore and taking her out of action for so long?
The third factor that people tend to be shying away from here is Jon Jones. Jon Jones opted not to partake in most of the promotional smack talk or to let Sonnen under his skin in a fight that not many believed would be competitive. It was not competitive and it did not make Jones any more of a star, when it at least had the potential to help improve his star power The other side of the coin is that Jon Jones is proving that he is a moderate draw on his own, but that his star is nowhere near where the UFC would like it to be. The UFC have less and less proven draws available to them at the moment and have been scrambling to build new stars. No matter what Jon Jones is not proving to be what the company needs right now, regardless of talent and ability.