This past weekend saw televised shows from the big three MMA organizations in North America with differering results.
UFC Fight Night 78 from Mexico featuring Kelvin Gastelum vs. Neil Magny in the main event did a below average 750,000 viewers for Fox Sports One for the main card, but a well above average 732,000 viewers for the four fight prelims show that was also on FS1.
The show wouldn’t have been expected to do a great rating with the main event, especially with Magny replacing the popular Matt Brown who was injured in the lead-in to the event. Additionally, the TUF Latin American 2 final matches were on the main card featuring 4 completely unknown fighters to the US audience since that series only aired on UFC Fight Pass in the US.
The year to date average for UFC Fight Nights on FS 1 now stands at just under 908,000 viewers, so Saturday’s show was 17% below that average. However, that number is still 9.5% higher than the 2014 average of just under 829,000 viewers.
Better news for UFC was the continued trend of the FS 1 prelims doing well above average. The 732,000 viewers for that show were 23% higher than the year-to-date average of 595,000 viewers. That number is also up 9.3% from the 2014 average of 544,000. The prelims bouts had an unofficial "Mexico vs the World" theme with the biggest name on that portion of the show being longtime UFC/WEC fighter Scott Jorgensen, a loser to Alejandro Perez.
This week’s numbers was down significantly from the 903,000 viewers for UFC Fight Night 57 one year ago this weekend. That show had a much bigger main event with Frankie Edgar vs Cub Swanson. The prelims for that show were also slightly higher at 777,000 viewers with veteran Yves Edwards being the biggest name.
Bellator 146 on Spike TV was right at its year to date average for regular Friday night shows with 650,000 viewers. Headlined by Melvin Manhoef vs Hisako Kato, the show was virtually identical to the year to date average of 656,000 viewers. It was also up 19% from the most recent non-"tentpole" show in October which did 555,000 viewers. The year to date average is down 3.5% from last year’s 676,000 viewers. There is no similar show from last year to compare to as Bellator took an extended break after the Bellator 131 show with Tito Ortiz vs. Stephan Bonnar.
WSOF on NBC Sports Network did a disappointing 148,000 viewers for an event featuring a one night lightweight tournament for a title shot in 2016. The 25th show in company history had its lowest viewership total since 96,000 viewers watched WSOF Canada on Feb 21, 2014. It was their third lowest total in their run on NBC Sports Network.
Although the show was advertised around the lightweight tourney, there was only one fight actually announced ahead of time featuring former Strikeforce fighter Jason High vs Estevan Payan. The 148,000 viewers for the show is 23% lower than the year-to-date average of 192,000. The 2015 average is down 11% from the 2014 average of 216,000 viewers.
Despite the steady numbers for Bellator and the gradually rising UFC numbers, there has been a steady decline for World Series of Fighting that traces back to their high water point when almost a million viewers tuned in to their one and only live card on the main NBC network in July of 2014.