Sunday nights could be big for the UFC in the future if this past weekend is any indication. UFC Fight Night: Henderson vs. Rua 2 drew very good numbers considering past performance and competition on Sunday night, a night no one associates with the promotion.
The main card from Natal, Brazil, averaged 936,000 viewers from 7 to 10 p.m. Eastern time. The Henderson vs. Rua main event peaked at 1.25 million viewers.
The number compared favorably to Henderson's last main event, on Nov. 9, also a Brazilian show, on a Saturday night against Vitor Belfort, which did 722,000 viewers for the main card and aired on a traditional Saturday night. It's also a strong sign for both the day and the main event, since the show had nobody else with ratings drawing power on the main card.
Both shows went against significant sports competition, with college football in the fall, and five NCAA basketball tournament games this past Sunday, including a CBS game that did 11.62 million viewers, all going head-to-head.
Bellator was also up against the NCAA basketball tournament, but a look through the ratings show near identical numbers for both the Friday and Sunday games. The UFC also went up against The Walking Dead which pulled almost 13.5 million viewers in a window that would have put it against the UFC's main event.
I've stated many times that I don't think direct comparisons between the UFC and Bellator are fair, the UFC should be expected to outperform Bellator in ratings as it is the pinnacle of MMA while Bellator is the leader of the "B-tier." But there's something to be taken away here when both promotions are against the same kind of competition and what their draw is from the "base audience."
I also think it's a bit of a concern for Bellator that Newton doesn't seem to have become much of a draw off back-to-back wins over Mo Lawal, one of which was a stunning highlight reel KO, the other on the most watched Bellator card to date.
Bellator's previous low mark for a Friday night was 583,000.