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Thursday, April 28, 2005
Mixed Martial Arts--- UFC 52 Sets All-Time Record for UFC Live Gate, April 9th Event Not as Successful at Box Office
by Ivan Trembow for MMAWeekly.com
The UFC shattered its own all-time records for total attendance and live gate with UFC 52 on April 16th. According to the Nevada State Athletic Commission and the MGM Grand, the paid attendance for UFC 52 was 12,643, while the number of free "comp" tickets given out to advertisers, TV industry executives, celebrities, and friends of UFC employees was 1,631. The combined result was a sellout crowd of 14,274 in attendance, drawing a total live gate of $2,575,450. An increased demand for tickets drove up ticket prices, causing several thousand tickets to be sold at the box office for $300 or $400.
The live gate of $2,575,450 is a new record for the UFC. The previous record was set by UFC 40 with its live gate of $1,540,340. The top ten live gates in UFC history prior to this event ranged from $650,000 to the aforementioned $1.5 million for UFC 40.
The total attendance of 14,274 is also a new record for the UFC. The previous record was set by UFC 40 with its total attendance of 13,275. In terms of paid attendance, UFC 52 had no chance of breaking the record set by UFC 40 because of the high number of free "comp" tickets given out to executives, celebrities, and friends of UFC employees at UFC 52. UFC 40 had a paid attendance of 13,055 and a total attendance of 13,275, which means that only 220 comp tickets were given out for that event, at a time when there wasn't as much interest from celebrities and TV executives to attend UFC events.
Due to the huge live gate; UFC 52 will turn a profit for Zuffa. This is just the third or fourth event to turn a net profit for Zuffa ever since it bought the UFC in 2001 and ran events starting with UFC 30. Information on UFC 52's pay-per-view buy-rate is still not available, but the expectation going into the event was for it to draw 100,000 buys in the worst-case scenario and 200,000 buys in the best-case scenario.
While UFC 52 was a big success for Zuffa at the live gate, the company's April 9th event at the Cox Pavilion was not. The UFC booked the April 9th event in a small venue that would only hold 2,950 fans, and assumed that it would automatically sell out because of the low number of seats available. Zuffa was so sure that the event would be a quick sell-out that it told its employees at one point that it would not be making the usual "comp" tickets available for them to give out to people. Tickets for the April 9th event were priced at $350, $250, and $150.
With huge live ticket demand for a UFC 52 event that would take place just one week later, along with the fact that the cheapest tickets for the April 9th event were a whopping $150, ticket sales were very slow. Zuffa had to "paper the building" like crazy, which means handing out large amounts of free "comp" tickets in order to fill the building and make it look good on TV. They also had a much stronger than usual demand from TV executives and representatives from other companies who wanted to attend to the first UFC event that would be televised live on free television, including representatives from ESPN. When all was said and done, the building was full with 2,950 fans, but the paid attendance was only 779 and there were 2,171 comp tickets given out. The live gate for the April 9th event was just $180,950.