8.8 Million Viewers Indicate the Sky’s the Limit for UFC on Fox

November 17, 2011
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The success of the first ever UFC on Fox show continues to grow with the ratings returns in, and the fighters in the sport are just as excited as UFC and Fox officials.

In a ratings release on Sunday, the UFC on Fox averaged 5.7 million viewers for the entirety of the one-hour broadcast that aired during the 9 to 10 p.m. ET time slot.

According to Nielsen Ratings sent to MMAWeekly.com, the 15-minute averages steadily increased as the show got closer to the actual fight, which didn’t kick off until after 9:30 p.m. ET.

Starting at 9 p.m. ET, the UFC on Fox broadcast pulled in 5.3 million viewers and then jumped to 5.5 million viewers during the 9:15 to 9:30 time slot. The real jump happened during the fight between Cain Velasquez and Junior Dos Santos.

The peak hit at 8.8 million viewers during the fight, the highest ever for any mixed martial arts fight in television history, surpassing the numbers reached during the EliteXC broadcast featuring Kimbo Slice against James Thompson.

The overall rating during the 9:30 to 9:45 p.m. time period averaged 7.1 million viewers. The decrease was due to the amount of fans that changed the channel after the heavyweight title fight ended with the viewership going to 5.9 million within three minutes of the fight’s conclusion.

“It’s awesome. I think it’s a matter of time before mixed martial arts and the UFC is the biggest sport and the biggest organization in the world,” said Urijah Faber about the debut Fox show.

According to a release from Fox on Thursday, another half-million viewers were added to the overall broadcast courtesy of the show’s airing on Fox Deportes. FoxSports.com also saw their biggest numbers outside of a Super Bowl when showcasing the UFC on Fox prelims on the internet.

The two-hour UFC on Fox pre-game show on Fuel TV was the highest rated program on the network for all of 2011, and their largest share in the coveted 18-49 male demographic as well.

UFC on Fox 1 was just the starting point to a seven-year deal that actually doesn’t begin until January 2012. For some fighters who have been around MMA for several years, it’s a very exciting time to see the sport explode on a whole new level.

“I think the game is just starting,” said Wanderlei Silva on Thursday. “We just had our first event on Fox, the transition for the sport right now, and it’s just time before this sport is No. 1 in the world.”

Dan Henderson, who fights in this weekend’s main event fight at UFC 139, marks the UFC on Fox debut as another placeholder in MMA history.

“It’s been a long time coming,” said Henderson. “The UFC getting on Spike TV was one big step, and with them getting a deal with Fox, it’s another huge step for the sport.”

The second Fox show is rumored to take place in January 2012, and if the numbers from the debut show are any indication, the sky’s the limit for the future.

“I think the second show on Fox will be even bigger for the UFC,” middleweight Cung Le stated at the UFC 139 pre-fight press conference.

Expectations are definitely high that Le is right on the money with his prediction.

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  • 9 million is huge and blows the Kimbo Slice fights out of the water. But is the UFC going to keep showing fights of the caliber of Velasquez and Dos Santos on free tv? I doubt it.

  • KBEsq

    Awesome to hear. I think something else that needs to be considered (and I heard this on the Sherdog Podcast) is that this fight did not have the added benefit of gaining viewers from word of mouth as the fight took place. Like the Griffen/Bonnar fight, and the Kimbo/Thompson fight. Both of those fights gained huge numbers as a result of viewers making calls and texting people to turn on their T.V.

    The Velasquez/JDS fight, being only 64 seconds, did not have this added benefit, and still did well. I only imagine what would have happened if they did put Guida/Bendo on beforehand.

    I think the UFC learned a lesson: diversify, and heavyweights are the worst division to introduce MMA. Chances are, it’s going to be a one minute knockout, or two guys looking like they just climbed Mount Everest after running 20 miles. Use the lighter guys and diversify, and the sky is the limit.

  • Imagine if Velasquez and Dos Santos had gone like Bendo vs. Guida. I’d wager the numbers would have spiked over 10 million at that point for word of mouth alone.

  • MikeMc1983

    I can see where you guys are coming from. A longer fight would have obviously given the ratings a chance to grow. However, I’m not sure that just any fight that got higher ratings would be the best thing in the long run. I may be wrong, but I’ve always thought that the masses want to see finishes in combat sports. Lighter weight classes may be more “action packed,” but a big reason for that is the guys are not nearly as worried about that one punch. I’ve personally always felt that the 205lbs weight class is the best for viewing. The elite guys in that class seem to me to be the best combination of power, speed, and conditioning. However I realize that’s just my opinion.

    I think one of the reasons the UFC chose the fight they did because there was a slim chance that there wasn’t a finish.
    I know I’m biased. I’m not a fan of fights where guys can stand toe to toe, throw everything they have into every punch, and bash eachother for three rounds. Guys like Leonard Garcia get credit for having a great chin, when in reality it seems to me that his oposition, who cuts down to their girlfriends weight, simply don’t have the power to put him down.

    Enough with that rant sorry. My point was that more eyes on the UFC is a good thing. Unless what those eyes see is something they don’t like. I think a lot off mma fans have grown to respect a fight like guida and bendo. I’m not sure if a first fan would see it the way we do. The first UFC I watched was the first. I noticed that I started to get really excited about it when tank abbot rolled through. It was exciting knowing any moment the fight was over. It’s what made Tyson exciting to watch. Also, what the top of the heavyweight division brings.
    I just know it took me time to learn, and appreciate all the skills modern day mma has. I just think the cooler talk at work Monday would draw more attention if the conversation started with “did you see that guy get knocked the f*** out?” rather than “did you see those long haired dudes grind eachother?”

    Just don’t forget that the more ratings the show has. The more ignorant the viewer is to what their watching.

    • KBEsq

      I think you are confusing two different things. A knock out in general, and a knock out after only a minute. There are several different outcomes that can take place in any given fight, and those outcomes are beneficially different. You have to ask: what is the best outcome for potentially new fans who don’t know about MMA?

      The answer may be a knockout in general (I agree with you there), BUT NOT a knock out after one minute. It makes MMA look illegitimate. Yes, a knockout is best, but optimally, a knock out after some back and forth. and at least a couple rounds. However, if you say you want the knock out after back and forth, you have to accept that there is a possibility for a knockout after a minute (or even ten seconds), which, in my opinion, is one of the worst outcomes.

      I have said from the beginning that Bendo/Guida was the most RELIABLE fight for new fans because of their styles, and the miniscule chance of an early knockout. I never said it was the best. While hardcore MMA fans thought JDS knocking CV out was “cool” (because we know what that means), new fans probably just thought that CV was a bad fighter and MMA can’t put decent talent together (which we all know is false).

      You have to put yourself in the shoes of someone who doesn’t love this yet and has no idea who these guys are. Seeing a guy get hit in the back of the ear, barely fall down and get pounded out was most likely entertaining, but it was not impressive. I think the UFC needs to aim for impressive if they want to sell a sport to new fans.

      Optimally, a fight like Condit/McDonald would be best. However, when you gamble with aggressive fighters, you have to accept that the fight may end quickly. Hence, we keep coming back to this “eggs in one basket” cliche.

  • illeeturbabys

    8.8 million viewers for about a minute 4 seconds…..should have at least seen the co main event too….