September 11, 2007

by Ken Pishna – MMAWeekly.com
The UFC’s third foray of the year into the U.K. drew a record number of viewers for mixed martial arts in North America. According to officials at Spike TV, which aired the event on a tape-delayed basis in the United States, the telecast captured an average of 4.7 million viewers on the strength of a 3.1 overall rating.

At one point during the title bout between Quinton Jackson and Dan Henderson, there were approximately 5.6 million viewers tuned in, according to David Schwartz of Spike TV.

UFC 75 actually outdrew any other televised program during the same time period on Saturday night in the hotly contested advertising demographics of Men 18-34 and Men 18-49. The competition in that time period included offerings of college football on ABC and ESPN, NASCAR on ABC, and the U.S. Open Women’s Final on CBS.

“The ratings are further proof that the tide in American sports is changing,” said Kevin Kay, General Manager, Spike TV. “Young men, who constitute the Spike TV core audience, prefer the incredible action and athleticism of the UFC to more traditional sports.”

UFC President Dana White was understandably touting the achievements of the promotion’s latest move into the U.K. and on American television. “Not only did UFC 75 showcase the bout that unified the 205 lb Pride and UFC titles, it did so in front of a record breaking crowd at the O2 Arena in London, and in front of the largest U.S. audience to ever tune in to an MMA card during its Spike TV telecast.”

According to statistics provided by Spike TV, “UFC 75” scored 2,503,000 Men 18-49 compared to 2.3 million for Oregon vs. Michigan on ABC; 2.1 million for NASCAR on ABC; 1.3 million for Virginia Tech vs. LSU on ESPN; 1.3 million for Notre Dame vs. Penn St on ESPN, and 546,000 for the U.S. Open Women’s Final on CBS.

In the Men 18-34 demographic “UFC 75” on Spike TV scored 1,622,000 viewers compared to 1.2 million for Oregon vs. Michigan on ABC; 717,000 for NASCAR on ABC; 656,000 million for Virginia Tech vs. LSU on ESPN; 687,000 for Notre Dame vs. Penn St on ESPN and 190,000 for the U.S. Open Women’s Final on CBS.

Overall, the Spike TV telecast drew a 3.1 rating (3.0 million homes), 5.7 Men 18-34 (1.6 million), 4.5 in M18-49 (2.5 million), and 6.2 rating in M25-34 (1.0 million).

[UPDATE] The quarter-hour ratings for UFC 75 are now available, and they reveal that UFC 75 included the second and third most-watched fights in UFC history.

The most-watched fight in UFC history was Tito Ortiz and Ken Shamrock 3, which aired on October 10, 2006 and drew a 4.3 rating.

The five-round fight between Quinton Jackson and Dan Henderson at UFC 75 drew a 3.8 rating, making it the second most-watched fight in UFC history.

In addition, the controversial fight between Michael Bisping and Matt Hamill drew a 3.4 rating, making it the third most-watched fight in UFC history. Bisping’s previous fight, a win over Elvis Sinosic at UFC 70, drew a 1.9 rating when it aired on Spike TV in April 2007. Hamill’s previous fight on Spike TV, a win over Seth Petruzelli, drew a 2.7 rating when it aired on Spike TV in October 2006.

Cheick Kongo’s unanimous decision win over Mirko Cro Cop drew a 3.1 rating, which was up significantly from the 2.2 rating that was drawn by Cro Cop’s first fight on Spike TV, a knockout loss to Gabriel Gonzaga back in April.

Kicking off the UFC 75 broadcast was Houston Alexander’s victory over Alessio Sakara, which drew a 2.3 rating; and Marcus Davis’ dramatic comeback victory over Paul Taylor, which drew a 2.8 rating.

The high ratings for UFC 75 could not have come at a better time for Zuffa, which is in the midst of contract renewal negotiations with Spike TV. According to reports in both MultiChannel News and Variety, the new deal is expected to cost Spike TV over $100 million, and that amount is only going to be solidified or increased by the impressive ratings of UFC 75.

The next UFC event on Spike TV will be UFC Fight Night 11 on Wednesday, Sept. 19, with a main event of Din Thomas vs. Kenny Florian.