Saturday night saw America's #2 and #3 MMA promotions go head-to-head on cable television for the first time ever. MTV2 aired Bellator 35, the promotion's debut show on the network, starting at 9 p.m. ET. Showtime, a premium cable channel, aired Strikeforce: Feijao vs Henderson at 10 p.m. ET.
MMA Junkie reports that Strikeforce drew an average of 412,000 viewers. No information on peak viewership has been reported. This is down sharply from Strikeforce: Fedor vs Silva, which did an average of 741,000 viewers and Strikeforce: Diaz vs Cyborg which averaged 561,000 viewers. It is also down slightly from the promotion's average for 2010 which was 426,000 viewers for the six major Strikeforce fight cards aired on Showtime.
Here are Strikeforce's numbers for their most recent shows:
- 412,000 viewers, Strikeforce: Hednerson vs Feijao (March 2011)
- 741,000 viewers, Strikeforce: Fedor vs Silva (Feb 2011)
- 561,000 viewers, Strikeforce: Diaz vs. Cyborg (Jan 2011)
- 341,000 viewers, Strikeforce: Henderson vs Babalu II (Dec 2010)
- 350,000 viewers, Strikeforce: Diaz vs. Noons 2 (Oct 2010)
- 367,000 viewers, Strikeforce: Lawal vs. Cavalcante (Aug 2010)
- 412,000 viewers, Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Werdum (Jun 2010)
- 517,000 viewers, Strikeforce: Diaz vs. Zaromskis (Jan 2010)
MMA Junkie also reported on Bellator's numbers:
Bellator's season-four debut event netted 200,000 viewers for MTV2's live broadcast, and the immediate replay maintained 63.5 percent of the original audience with 127,000 fans tuning in.
Most importantly, the figures represented a massive increase in key demographics for the cable channel.
MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com) has learned from industry sources that Bellator 35's ratings viewership represented an 83 percent increase in men ages 18 to 49 years old, 80 percent rise in men ages 18 to 34 years old and a whopping 133 percent increase in men ages 25 to 34 years old.
It's likely that these numbers represent a dramatic increase in viewers for Bellator. The only hard number I've been able to find for previous seasons was a .85 rating for Bellator 13 on Fox Sports Pittsburgh.
These numbers are not surprising. For comparison, UFC on Versus 3 drew an average of 681,000 viewers which was considered a disappointing number. Another data point to consider is Saturday night's Duke/UNC game which drew 4.9 million viewers according to TV by the Numbers.
It's good to have a base point for Bellator numbers and will be very interesting to see if their numbers improve or worsen over the course of the season. Bellator 35 didn't feature any really good fights so I don't think they built any momentum.
As for Strikeforce, it's pretty clear that these are the kind of numbers they do without a Herschel Walker, Gina Carano or Fedor in a tournament on the card. The real test will be the June 18th installment of the heavyweight tournament. If I had to guess, I'd expect the April 9th numbers to be the same or worse as Henderson vs Feijao.
They ought to be able to do better with a headliner of Nick Diaz vs Paul Daley, given the epic amounts of trash both men can talk but I have little faith in Strikeforce/Showtime's ability to build up that fight.