The pay-per-view orders double or triple when St-Pierre is on the bill, as they do for recently injured Brazilian Anderson Silva, UFC’s middleweight champion from 2006 until July this year.
“I think it’s definitely an issue. He’s arguably their top pay-per-view draw, him and Anderson Silva,” said Steven Salaga, an assistant professor of sport management business at the Florida Institute of Technology who has written on the UFC’s business model. “If they lose both of those two at the same time, that’s certainly a bigger issue.”
Andre Richelieu, a professor of sports marketing at Quebec City’s Laval University, said the UFC must now renew itself by creating “new superstars who will act as emotional anchors” for those who may feel set adrift by St-Pierre’s absence.
It may also be a lesson for the future to spread celebrity more evenly and with it the risk to the sport when one main draw disappears, he said.
UFC president Dana White appears to have already taken that lesson to heart.
The timeless story of “the fight game” involves old champs being replaced by new ones, he said, before the promoter in him took over.
“The story isn’t finished yet. The guy’s going to go deal with his stuff,” he said. “It’s like you put a bookmark in it and we wait to see how this story ends.”