This past weekend saw televised MMA shows from both of the big 2 companies in North America.
The higher profile show was UFC Fight Night 77 from Sao Paulo Brazil on FS 1 Saturday night, which averaged 757,000 for the six-fight main card and 609,000 viewers for the four-fight prelims show, which also aired on FS 1. The show was up against huge sports competition in the form of college football on CBS, ABC, FOX, and ESPN which did numbers varying from 1.5 million all the way up to 11 million -- all airing directly against the UFC show. An episode of Saturday Night Live, hosted by Donald Trump, did that show’s highest ratings in three years and aired against the second half of this show.
The show was down about 17.5% from the year to date average of 917,625 viewers on FS 1. The prelims show was actually up 4.4% from the year to date average of 583,083 viewers for previous Fight Night prelim shows on FS 1.
The five most recent FS 1 Fight Nights prior to Saturday had averaged 821,000 viewers and the most recent prelims shows had averaged 525,800 viewers. This would seem to indicate that the hardcore fan base that will watch any fights is actually increasing but that casual fans weren’t terribly interested in this card.
This was the lowest number for an FS 1 show since the 508,000 viewers on July 18th but that show aired in the afternoon from Scotland. The last time a prime time show did this low was the TUF 21 Finale on July 12th that did 691,000 viewers for a show headlined by Stephen Thompson vs Jake Ellenberger and the final matches of the TUF 21 show (which for the first time ever was not a tournament).
An FS 1 show one year ago this weekend, Fight Night 56, headlined by Ovince St. Preux vs Shogun Rua, did 699,000 viewers with the prelims show (airing on FS 2) doing 176,000 viewers. Again, that seems to line up with the general trend of UFC viewership being up in 2015.
Saturday’s show was headlined by Dan Henderson vs Vitor Belfort, who had fought once before on an FS 1 show also from Brazil and also on the same weekend (Nov 9, 2013). That show did 722,000 viewers, so this was up from that time with a similar level of undercard.
The other show this past weekend was Bellator 145: With a Vengeance, which aired Friday night on Spike TV. This was the final tentpole event of the year for Bellator and did an audience of 814,000 viewers, headlined by featherweight champion Pitbull Friere vs Daniel Straus. Lightweight titleholder Will Brooks vs. Marcin Held and featured fights featuring Bobby Lashley and former lightweight champion Michael Chandler were also on the show.
This number was slightly up from the most recent big special for Bellator, headlined by Tito Ortiz vs. light heavyweight champion Liam McGeary, a four-man light heavyweight tournament, and two Glory kickboxing fights. That September 19th event did 800,000 viewers. The average for the five Bellator tentpole events is now 1,061,400 viewers, so this show was about 23% below that average.
Bellator has averaged 759,286 viewers per show in 2015, so this number was up 7% from that average. This is the first time that Bellator has built one of these shows around main event fighters who were essentially homegrown so in that sense it was more like a regular show. It was also in the traditional Friday night time slot while the three higher rated events took place on a Saturday.
The Bellator per show average is up 8.1% from 2014, which averaged 702,227 viewers.
Bellator's first tentpole show featured Ortiz vs Stephan Bonnar in a heavily promoted grudge match. That show set a Bellator record of 1,241,000 viewers on Nov 15, 2014, which has since been broken by Kimbo Slice vs. Ken Shamrock earlier this year.