UFC on Fox 2 will probably be remembered as a more important (or at least more interesting) moment in the UFC's growth than the debut in November of 2011. The event was the promotion's first full effort on Fox and, while featuring several "big name fighters," failed to live up to the excitement expected of a UFC card in many ways. The ratings for this show are interesting given how horrible the opening fight between Demian Maia and Chris Weidman were but will also have some weight in terms of if viewers will tune in to the next Fox card.
The Fox Sports Media Group distributed an press release via e-mail with their official ratings information and they weren't shy about noting the drop in ratings from the first go-round:
The three-bout, two-hour event, the first official network broadcast of FOX's partnership with UFC, is off from the UFC on FOX premiere in November (3.5/6), which was only one hour and featured a highly anticipated heavyweight championship fight. When comparing similar time periods for the two events, FOX posted a 3.1/5 from 9:00-10:15 PM ET, compared to the 3.5/6 that the premiere event recorded from 9:00-10:00 PM.
It is interesting to note that, as expected with an event on free TV, the ratings increased dramatically for the main event:
As anticipation to the night's main event grew so did the ratings. The night's first match, Jitsu master Demian Maia taking on unbeaten Chris Weidman did a 2.3/4. The next fight between middleweight contender Chael Sonnen battling British star Michael Bisping grew to a 2.9/5. Fans tuned in to see former light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans take on undefeated former national champion wrestler Phil Davis with that bout posting a 3.4/6. The fight went all five rounds and Evans defeated Davis by unanimous decision.
They also shared some "top market" breakdowns:
The top five metered markets for Saturday's UFC on FOX event are: Las Vegas - 4.1/8; Louisville - 4.1/7; Indianapolis - 3.9/7; Greenville - 3.9/6; Tulsa - 3.9/6; and Knoxville - 3.9/6. Other markets of interest: New York - 2.2/4; Los Angeles - 2.3/5; and host city Chicago - 2.8/5.
The fact that there are multiple fights with a main event that will almost always be more appealing to the coveted "casual fan" does mean that the ratings will show a lot of fluctuation as fights that don't hold interest result in people checking out for 20-30 minutes at a time. From talks I've had with industry types, they've told me that it can make selling ads tricky given that sponsors can be reluctant to pay for ad slots which may fall during low viewership points in the broadcast (or for spots during the main event which may come after a quick knockout).
But, given that the ratings for the show were so much higher than the other major networks and the lack of a "season" meaning that the UFC can fill a Saturday night slot any month of the year, there is certainly no immediate worry that sponsors or the network will shy away from the fight game any time soon. Simply that it's going to take skill and commitment to line up the best, highest paying sponsors possible. But Fox is no stranger to that game.