As UFC 136 inched closer, whispers surfaced that the event was failing to catch the public's eye as well as expected, despite featuring two title fights and a return of the walking controversy that is Chael Sonnen. Now those whispers may have been validated. According to a report from Wrestling Observer's Dave Meltzer, early figures indicate that the October event collected just 250,000 pay-per-view buys, by far the lowest total for a championship fight in the last six years.
By comparison, UFC 135 nearly doubled the buys of UFC 136 with a light heavyweight championship headliner of Jon Jones vs. Quinton Jackson.
While many conclusions can be reached regarding UFC 136's failure to catch on, the primary talking point will inevitably turn to the public's indifference towards the lighter weight classes. With the UFC's bantamweight and featherweight divisions still less than a year old, and the lightweight division lacking clearly recognizable stars, igniting interest in the little guys appears to be a difficult road for Dana White and company.
Despite the whatever advances they may make on network television, the UFC is -- and likely always will be -- a pay-per-view business, first and foremost. As the availability of UFC belts stretches from four to five, then seven, and eventually eight, the allure of a championship headliner seems to be subtly slipping from anticipated to expected. As Meltzer explained, the days of a title fight inside the Octagon guaranteeing a major payday are over.
"This is pretty clearly showing that the business value of a UFC championship fight has taken a real hit," he wrote. "There was a time when you could put two guys not known to the general public and call it a UFC title fight and get 450,000 buys."
In retrospect, it's possible that UFC 136 suffered because of its inherent structure. Stars are what drive buys now, and for some reason all the public darlings weigh above 155 pounds. If anything it'll be fascinating to witness the fallout from this announcement, because if there's one thing the UFC brass hate the most, it's losing tread in the pay-per-view industry.