For all of the hand-wringing over Bellator MMA's decision to book Kimbo Slice vs. Dada 5000 and Ken Shamrock vs. Royce Gracie III, the ironic enjoyment of low-quality MMA from the two feature fights, and for all of the furious post-fight debate over whether or not Kimbo vs. Dada should've been booked given the physical condition of the latter, there's one undeniable fact out of Friday night's event: A lot of people watched the card.
Sports TV Ratings reports an average of nearly 2 million viewers for Bellator 149, which makes it far and away the highest rated Bellator broadcast in the promotion's history.
Bellator 149 averaged 1.964 million viewers on Spike Friday night from 9p-12:04a (didn’t see peak).— Sports TV Ratings (@SportsTVRatings) February 22, 2016
Details on peak viewership and a ratings breakdown by time-slot will be known at a later date.
The previous highest average for a Bellator MMA show was approximately 1.6 million viewers for Bellator 138, headlined by ... Kimbo Slice vs. Ken Shamrock. An average of 2.1 million tuned in for the main event, which Slice won by 1st round TKO.
Chances are good that last Friday's card peaked during Kimbo vs. Dada 5000, which Slice won via 3rd round TKO. We'll find out soon enough, but it's time now to update the history of Kimbo Slice on cable television MMA shows.
Win vs. James Thompson (CBS) - 4.85 million (with 6.5 million peak)
Loss to Seth Petruzelli (CBS) - 4.56 million (with 5.5 million peak)
TUF 10 premiere (Spike) - 4.1 million
TUF 10 loss to Roy Nelson (Spike) - 5.3 million
TUF 10 Finale win vs. Houston Alexander (Spike) - 3.7 million (with 5.2 million peak)
Win vs. Ken Shamrock (Spike) - 1.6 million (2.4 million peak)
Win vs. Dada 5000 (Spike) - 1.964 million (peak unknown)
There's still plenty of demand to see Kimbo Slice on live television, and that's not debatable. This was a massive success for Bellator MMA, and it certainly highlights that their "freakshow" tactics work, as evidenced by this event, Kimbo/Shamrock, and while not necessarily a freakshow fight, Ortiz/Bonnar garnered plenty of interest and strong ratings on its own.
UPDATE: New numbers in for peak average viewership as well as the main event rating, per a Spike TV press release.
"Bellator 149 shattered viewership records for Bellator MMA, averaging 2 million viewers for the entire 3-hour fight card on Friday, February 19 (9:00-12:04am ET/PT), peaking with Kimbo Slice's three-round brawl with Dada 5000 averaging 2.5 million viewers (11:16pm-11:30pm) and a 2.3 rating with Men 18-34. The main event featuring MMA legends Royce Gracie and Ken Shamrock drew 2.4 million viewers (11:54pm-11:57pm)."