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UFC Panini PRIZM A Good Sports Card INVESTMENT?

April 26, 2021 9 min read

UFC Panini PRIZM A Good Sports Card INVESTMENT?

 

With Panini gaining the license to now produce UFC cards (Topps held the license from 2009-2020) and 2021 UFC Prizm being released in April of 2021, the thought comes to most sports card collectors and investors: are UFC cards a good buy?

In today’s video I will be breaking down things to consider before purchasing UFC cards such as overall popularity of the sport and fighters, cards available, and overall value of cards compared to other sports.

Before we get into the video, of course, if you are a huge UFC fan and sports card collector, picking up cards is a no brainer to you.  This video will probably be more geared towards sports card collectors who are on the fence about collecting or investing in UFC cards.

Again, these are just my own thoughts, always do your own research and what is best for you and your collection.

Let’s talk about the UFC popularity before we jump into the fighters and the cards. 

Since the NFL is the United States most popular sport, let’s compare them to the UFC for the sake of this video.  Stick with me for a few moments as I think it is important to understand where UFC is as a brand to help us better understand their sports card market potential.

Yes, the NFL has been around since 1920 in its current set up and the UFC only since 1993.  So, the NFL has a 73-year advantage on building a brand.

However, the UFC wants to become as popular as the NFL so they will be a good league to compare them to.

Important to discuss social media followers as it shows how popular a brand and its athletes are.

The NFL official Instagram account has 20.4 million followers at the making of this video, UFC 27 million, 25% more.

Tom Brady has the most Instagram followers for an NFL player with 9.5 million.  Conor McGregor has the most for a UFC fighter with 39.6 million, no surprise there.

2020 revenue, NFL 12 billion.  I feel wealthy just saying that.  UFC roughly 1 billion.  NFL with 12 x the amount of revenue in an off year for the NFL since fans were for the most part not allowed to attend games in 2020.  In 2019, the NFL had revenue of just over 15 billion.

2020 average TV rating for the NFL was 15.4 million viewers per game.  The UFC’s highest PPV was UFC 246 with 1.35 million buys.  Unsure of the total viewership, but assuming 5-10 people get together to watch the fights, that could be 5-10 million on average.  Of course, nothing tops the Super Bowl in viewers with 91.6 million at Super Bowl 55, which was the most recent one with the Bucs vs the Chiefs.

While the UFC top fighters are huge celebrities and arguably just as popular if not more popular than some of the top NFL players, the NFL is just a behemoth in other areas such as revenue, merchandise, TV ratings, and marketing deals.  I would argue the UFC has a bigger future on the world’s stage simply because every country has some sort of mix martial arts interest and potentially a popular fighter already competing in some sort of competitive league.  NFL can’t say that.  The sport is really only played here in America for the most part.  TV wise, you can currently watch the NFL in 181 counties, the UFC 150. 

Now that we have an understanding of how popular the UFC is, let’s talk about the sport itself.

As we know, the more often a player plays the more chances he has to have a big game, thus increasing the popularity of him and his cards.  How many times have we seen an NFL quarterback have a big game and his cards shoot up overnight?  Look at Kyler Murray last year after he threw the game winning touchdown vs the Bills.  Tom Brady’s cards after the Super Bowl win vs. the Chiefs.

Same thing happens in the UFC, take a look at Dustin Poirer when he beat Conor McGregor recently.

The one thing that does hold the UFC back in this area is the most popular fighters only fight a few times a year, when the NFL player plays 16 games in front of on average 15.4 million fans.  McGregor, for example, fought once in 2020 vs Donald Cerrone for 40 seconds.  Dustin Poirer also fought just once in 2020.

The amount of TV exposure each UFC fighter gets is very limited compared to top notch NFL player.

That would be my big concern I would have when buying UFC cards is the limited number of fights.  Will that hold back the popularity of their cards?

Let’s move onto the fighters themselves for a moment.

As we all know, in sports, superstars sell.  Superstars are the ones people want to collect and sell.  They drive the revenue and viewership in leagues.

While Instagram followers obviously don’t tell the whole story if a player is worth collecting, they make a fair argument about who is popular and considered a superstar.

Let’s take a look at the most popular Instagram accounts for the NFL and the UFC.

Top 5 in the NFL:

#1 Tom Brady 9.5 M followers

#2 Russell Wilson 5 M

#3 Cam Newton 4.8 M

#4 Patrick Mahomes 4.6 M

#5 Rob Gronkowski 4.4 M

 

Top 5 in the UFC

#1 Conor McGregor 39.6 M

#2 Khabib Nurmagomedov 28 M

#3 Ronda Rousey 13.2 M

#4 Jon Bones Jones 5.7 M

#5 Nate Diaz 4.7 M

 

As you can see, the top 3 UFC fighters have more followers than Tom Brady.   Conor McGregor has 11.3 million more followers than the top 5 in the NFL combined.  Make no mistake about it, the NFL has huge superstars, but the UFC from a personal fighter brand standpoint has BIG superstars.

Now that we have established the UFC has superstars worthy of collecting their cards, let’s move onto the cards themselves and discuss past sales, what’s on the market, and also the release of 2021 Prizm, UFC’s 1st Prizm year.

 

First, let’s talk about past sales so we can get an idea of what these cards sell for compared to the NFL.

This data will be coming from eBay only.  Yes, cards have sold on different platforms for various prices, but just to keep it consistent, all this data will be coming from eBay.

Here are a few quick examples.

The most expensive Conor McGregor card (with just McGregor on it, no dual signed items) was the 2013 Topps UFC Bloodlines Rookie Auto graded PSA 10 sold for $15,000.

Khabib Nurmagomedov 2014 Topps Knockout Rookie Auto /8 ungraded sold for $10,000

In comparison, the most expensive Tom Brady card sold on eBay was a 2000 Playoff Contenders Rookie Auto PSA 10 for $555,000.  37 times more expensive than the McGregor card.

Patrick Mahomes 2017 National Treasures Green Rookie Patch Auto /15 PSA 10 sold for $250,000.  Almost 17 times more expensive than the McGregor card.

The UFC superstars have a LONG WAY to go to catch up to the NFL superstars in terms of overall card sales value.

However, NFL cards have been collected for decades so it is no surprise to see them way ahead of UFC cards which have only been produced for a little over 10 years.

Given this information though lies an opportunity.  Could UFC cards be undervalued similar to the soccer card market of 2019?  Will dive into that in just a bit.

Next, let’s talk about the most popular UFC sets.  Which are the ones to collect from past years? 

According to hobbylark.com…

Here are a few of the well-recognized UFC Topps sets.  Topps as you may remember had the UFC license from 2009-2020.

  • The Knockout line has appeared every year since 2010.
  • The Chrome line was produced from 2017-19. There wasn't one in 2020 though.
  • The Museum line has appeared each year since 2016, but there wasn't one in 2020 just like Chrome.

 

For past cards, Topps is the king obviously.  However, Panini Prizm is set to release in April 2021.  Let’s talk about that set for just a minute.

The UFC Prizm Hobby Box comes with 12 packs, 12 cards per pack, 144 cards total.  2 autographs, 22 Prizms, and 10 inserts on average per box.  Exact same as football and basketball.

The color blast they do is just incredible.  Downside to this set is it appears they are all sticker autographs.

As of the making of this video there was not a full checklist released yet.  Hopefully, there are some big-time fighters in this set.

Cost of this box will be more than a $1000, so about $7 a card.

If you have watched any of my videos you know I am not a huge fan of buying hobby boxes and hoping to get a bit hit.  The numbers are not in your favor.

I am all about buying the exact cards you are going after.  A more targeted approach to collecting and investing.

I do believe that this year’s Prizm set, much like other sports 1st year Prizm set will have tremendous value as a sealed product to hold for years to come.

Panini Instant is their version of the Topps Now brand where cards are made instantly available after a big event or play.  Only sold for a limited time.  These will be fun to get after a big fight.  Imagine a Conor McGregor Panini Instant card right after a knockout win!

Incredible hype that card will have!

Let’s move onto the fighters to collect.

Just like other sports, you of course want to collect the fighters that you like.  From an investing standpoint, always go after the superstars or rookies you think will have value in the future.

The fighters I would stick with would be of course Conor McGregor, Khabib, Nate Diaz, Jon Bones Jones, Anderson Silva, Georges St-Pierre, just to name a few.  Pay attention to the guys that are very charismatic too.  Like other sports, those guys sell.

Other fighters to consider are some of the original legends such as Randy Couture and Chuck Liddell.  I was able to pick up some numbered Liddell autographed cards for about $50 each recently, so there are still solid deals to be found.

Women fighters you are going to have to really go after the home runs.  Ronda Rousey when she was in the UFC was very popular among the guys.  Her autographs for example sold very well.  I would always ask yourself; would guys want to have this card in their collection before buying any women’s UFC card since we know majority of card collectors are men, however, women are getting into the market.

Lastly, can’t forget about Joe Rogan.  For non-fighters, he along with Dana White are the most popular faces in the UFC.  His 2009 Topps rookie card currently sells for about $200 ungraded.  However, there are some decently priced cards still available.  Highly recommend Joe Rogan since he is a presence at every big UFC event, unlike the fighters, and has a HUGE social media following.

Given all this information, are UFC cards worth collecting and investing in?

I personally believe UFC cards are still undervalued and over looked similar to the soccer card market in 2019.

Will they become as popular as soccer, football, basketball or baseball cards?

In the short-term no.  The UFC brand still has a way to go to catch up to those guys.  As we saw in the comparison to the NFL, they are just a bit behind.  However, they are climbing fast.

There is a huge opportunity though with UFC cards given that very few have been made, very similar to the soccer card market.

Limited supply can equal higher prices if a fighter gets hot or has a huge upcoming fight.  Since we know about these fights in most cases months in advance, it can make preparing for them from an investment side a bit easier than say for example the Super Bowl which we only know the final teams 2 weeks before the game.

Side note, if there is a big fight coming up and you can find cards relatively cheap, you best bet is so probably buy both fighters so you can be guaranteed a big win financially.

My biggest problem with the UFC cards is the lack of fights.  You just can’t fight every month.  Will these cards have big rises and big dips due to that?  What happens if you are invested heavily in a fighter and he loses?  Then you are stuck for the next 6-12 months until he fights again.  Unlike football where there is always next week.  You could have some major wins and losses.

Outside of Conor McGregor who I think regardless of wins and losses will always remain a popular fighter even after he is done fighting, what will happen to the majority of these fighters once their career is over?  Will they be as popular as they were when they were fighting?  That’s a question you have to ask yourself about each fighter you are invested in.

If you love the UFC and are already collecting cards then you have to be excited to see UFC get its 1st Prizm set.  I know the price is astronomical, but if you take that targeted approach and just go after the fighters you want, you will have tremendous success.

From an investment standpoint, there is opportunity here.  However, you are going to have to really pick your spots.  For every Conor McGregor there are 100 Yu Darvish’s out there.

You are going to want to stick to the guys who have a huge social media presence, are charismatic, and have the potential to win some big fights.  Fights only happen once or twice a year for the big dogs, and one loss could send card prices crashing down. 

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