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For this post, I have collaborated with David St. Martin – an editor and MMA contributor for SB Nation.com. You can follow him on Twitter @PoyznusMMA.

Last weekend’s teaser is over and now the real event is almost upon us as UFC 121 (Brock Lesnar vs Cain Velasquez) takes over the Honda Center in Anaheim, California on October 23rd for a Heavyweight Championship main event. To say the broader UFC fanbase is abuzz would be an understatement. I intentionally use “broader” because Brock Lesnar attracts fan and media attention outside the traditional mixed-martial-arts community, and as a result event’s with him headlining tend to be a spectacle in the most positive sense of the word.

Anecdotally, I know it is significantly easier for me to get my non-UFC fan friends to come over for a PPV when Lesnar is on the card.

Enough speculation though, considering we are a ticket search engine, I wanted to take a look at the impact Lesnar has on ticket prices/fan demand in the secondary ticket market and then look at these prices in light of David’s expert opinion on the card as a whole.

UFC 121 Ticket Price Analysis

UFC 121 ticket prices

  • Fans are dishing out $220.93 on average in the secondary ticket market to attend UFC 121
  • Once again a UFC event has average ticket prices over $200, which puts it in the top-teir of sports or concert events alongside the most sought after NFL events and artists like Lady Gaga
  • Interestingly though, UFC 121 tickets are actually about $20 cheaper on average than UFC 118 tickets were (an event that featured a Lightweight Title bout between Frankie Edgar and BJ Penn)

I have to assume that this is market-driven — UFC 118 was the first ever UFC event in Boston, while UFC 121 will be the 4th event at the Honda Center and the 6th event in the greater Los Angeles Area (most recently the host of UFC 104 – Machida vs. Shogun). With that said, I would love to hear alternative thoughts on why ticket demand was higher for Penn vs. Edgar.

UFC 121 Main Event

David St. Martin has provided some great guest commentary on why this is such an exciting main event, which for me justifies the steep average ticket prices (or the $44.99 I will be paying to get the PPV):

Brock Lesnar is always a huge draw, but even moreso in this fight with Cain Velasquez. The hype behind Velasquez has been astounding, and even Lesnar’s huge win over Shane Carwin at UFC 116 back in July hasn’t been able to fully squelch the chatter of Cain being the better man. Stacked up against other title fights like we saw at UFC 118 with BJ Penn and Frankie Edgar, this matchup is extremely intriguing for a number of reasons. Firstly, these two haven’t already fought each other, a fact that will usually garner interest. There’s also the question of Brock’s ability to hang with Velasquez’s cardio in the later rounds. Cain and his team have been adamant about their plan of dragging Lesnar into those later championship rounds, so whether or not Brock can swim in the deep end will be something fans will be looking for. Lastly — and almost on a sour note — this may be Lesnar’s last real test the UFC can offer him at this time. Aside from Velasquez, there isn’t another heavyweight fighter signed under contract in the UFC who I see being a challenge to Lesnar’s crown. If Cain can’t get it done Saturday night, the UFC will be forced to seriously look at options of going after guys like Alistair Overeem.

UFC 121 Overall Card

As described above, this is a top-notch main event and furthermore the lower average ticket prices can’t be due to a weak under-card which includes some household names even with casual MMA fans (when is the last time the UFC was able to include 6 fighters on the promo poster?). David was kind enough to weigh in the card as a whole:

UFC 121 should be one of Zuffa’s strongest selling cards of 2010. The event is extremely well rounded and fans should expect to be liberally doused in action from star studded performances throughout the night. Aside from the reason most fans will be tuning in — Brock Lesnar — the card also features notable top sellers such as Tito Ortiz and Jake Shields. In all, UFC 120 has seven fighters on the card who have previously appeared in a UFC main event. That’s incredible.

Tito Ortiz — once one of the biggest stars in MMA — will be making another comeback in a vain attempt at recapturing his light heavyweight title he lost to Randy Couture at UFC 44 in 2003. Ortiz has been largely absent from competition over the last five years due to injury and hasn’t won a fight in the UFC since defeating Ken Shamrock in 2006. Be that as it may, of Tito’s last twelve fights, eleven of his opponents have been current or former UFC champions. You can never count Ortiz out of a fight.

Jake Shields makes his long awaited UFC debut this Saturday night as he takes on a very underrated Martin Kampmann. This is certainly no ‘welcome to the UFC’ warm up fight for Shields. Kampmann spent five years fighting at middleweight before making his move down to 170 pounds, so Shields’ additional tweener weight won’t lend as much of an advantage in this fight. The Dane has very impressive wins over guys like Thales Leites, Carlos Condit, and most recently Paulo Thiago, who he absolutely dismantled en rout to a one-sided decision victory at UFC 115. Shields will need to be at his best because there is absolutely no welcome mat being laid out for him.

UFC 121 Card Summary

  • Main Event: Brock Lesnar vs. Cain Velasquez
  • Jake Shields (fresh off a decisive victory over Dan Henderson in Strikeforce) vs. Martin Kampmann
  • Diego Sanchez vs. Paul Thiago
  • Tito Ortiz vs. Matt Hamil (classy fighter coming off a win over Kieth Jardine)
  • Brendan Schaub (of recent Ultimate Fighter fame) vs. Gabriel Gonzaga
  • Even the free prelims on Spike have some decent names in Patrick Côté and Tom Lawlor

Here’s to hoping the fights live up to the quality of names on this card.  I have been getting increasingly excited for a dose of five round UFC action, and it looks like the public is with me as avg. ticket prices have continued to trend up for UFC 121 since mid-August. Have a blast this weekend watching this long list of great fights!

Historical Average Ticket Prices

Related Links

UFC 120 Tickets: Capitalizing on UK Fans With A Sub-Par but Homegrown Card
UFC 119 Tickets, 1000s Still on Sale – Cheapest on Secondary Market
UFC 119, Ticket Prices Align with Expert Opinion, Worst Event in Months
UFC 118 Tickets – Demand for Edgar v Penn 2 & MMA v Boxing is High in Boston