by Ken Pishna and Steven Marrocco – MMAWeekly.com
Though the fight between Kevin “Kimbo Slice” Ferguson and former International Fight League champion Roy Nelson may have received criticism for the hype coming in compared to the product going out, it was a resounding success in one key aspect… television ratings.

Episode three of The Ultimate Fighter: The Heavyweights – featuring Kimbo’s first fight under the UFC banner – produced the highest numbers in Spike TV history in many key categories and vaulted into the Top 5 of the most-watched bouts in the history of televised mixed martial arts in the United States.

Despite Kimbo showing little progress in his MMA skills and Nelson providing little excitement in the victory, the initial broadcast of the episode pulled in an average of 5.3 million viewers for the entire 60-minute broadcast, according to Spike TV vice president Brian Diamond. For the fight itself, the final 15 minutes of the show, the average rose dramatically to 6.1 million viewers for that time period. That means that the number of viewers tuning in for the actual fight increased substantially in order to raise the episode average to 5.3 million viewers.

The encore broadcast of the episode, which aired immediately following the premier broadcast, also drew an average of 1.56 million viewers. There is no data determining how many of those 1.56 million viewers were repeats from the premier.

The previous record for most average viewers during an episode of The Ultimate Fighter or any other original series on Spike TV was this season’s premier, which boasted an average of 4.1 million viewers. Episode three drawing an average of 5.3 million puts the show in uncharted territory for the network.

According to TV By The Numbers’ report on the overnight Nielsen TV Ratings, The Ultimate Fighting was right behind the big three networks in viewership. In the same 10 p.m. time period “CSI: NY” on CBS drew 12.87 million viewers, “Eastwick” on ABC drew 6.62 million, and “The Jay Leno Show” drew 5.99 million. Not bad considering that Spike TV is available in a much smaller number of households than those three major broadcast networks.

Diamond on Thursday repeatedly stated that the episode provided the highest ratings that Spike TV has ever pulled in its key demographics of 18-to-35-Year-Old Males and 18-to-49-Year-Old Males. In the 18-to-35-Year-Old-Males category, the episode pulled a stunning 6.81 rating, while the 18-to-49-Year-Old-Males drew a 5.43 rating.

So don’t expect Kimbo to get kicked to the curb anytime soon, he was also one half of the most watched televised MMA fight in the United States when he fought James Thompson for EliteXC on CBS on May 31, 2008. That bout drew an average of 7.28 million viewers.