Last Saturday night in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the UFC held its final event on the flagship FOX network, as the promotion nears the start of a five-year agreement with ESPN and the ESPN+ streaming service.
Despite fast nationals coming in at more than 2.1 million viewers, the overall average for UFC on FOX 31 was actually 1,828,000, with the main event between Al Iaquinta and Kevin Lee peaking at just about 2.4 million viewers during the 10:15 PM-10:30 PM ET window, good for third out of this year’s five FOX main events. It is, however, the least-watched December UFC on FOX main card in the promotion’s history.
On the fast nationals, the show averaged 2,153,000 viewers, the best number for any UFC show on the fast national in two years. Only once previously in history has the fast national number not risen greatly in the final ratings, when figuring in West Coast viewership and the period past 10 p.m., when the highest rated part of the show takes place with the main event.
The fast nationals measure the top 55 metered markets, as opposed to the entire country. The other time when this happened was because of local market FOX stations preemptions of UFC for NFL preseason games that were higher rated in those markets. In this case, it meant that either there were preemptions, or higher rated programming on FOX West Coast stations that made the original UFC number artificially high.
The show’s fell very close to the UFC on FOX 2018 average of 1,867,000 viewers. The original high rating didn’t seem to make sense given the card didn’t feature any major drawing cards. If anything, doing the 2018 average for this show would have, ahead of time, been considered a success.
The main card averaged another 16,000 viewers for an average minute streaming on FOX streaming services.
The NFL game between the Cleveland Browns and Denver Broncos did get shown on the local Denver FOX affiliate, but that would presumably be the only region of the country where the UFC was preempted for that specific reason. Cleveland at Denver averaged about 7.3 million viewers on NFL Network, and it was the only programming that had a higher rating in the 18-49 demographic that evening. Among other terrestrial networks, UFC on FOX beat out whatever programming was shown on NBC, ABC, and CBS.
It’s no secret that UFC on FOX shows have not gotten nearly the attention nor promotion over the past couple of years compared to earlier in the UFC-FOX partnership. If you thought UFC on FOX 31 viewing figures were “meh” at best, the prelims on FS1 only averaged 256,000 viewers over a three-hour block. That’s the least-watched FOX preliminary card special when airing on FS1.
Based on the bout order, the UFC 232 FS1 preliminary card bout between Andrei Arlovski and Walt Harris is going to be the last UFC fight of the FOX Sports era. It should draw a good rating if only for the overall anticipation for next Saturday’s PPV.
Speaking of low viewership, Bellator MMA had a doubleheader of shows over the weekend, with Friday’s Bellator 212 simulcast on Paramount Network and DAZN, while Saturday’s Bellator 213 was exclusive to DAZN. Friday’s card, which was headlined by Michael Chandler’s lightweight title win over Brent Primus, averaged only 270,000 viewers and 81st in 18-49 demo rating for all Friday night cable programming. It’s the fourth least-watched Bellator show on Spike/Paramount in the promotion’s history, and it also means that both of Chandler’s fights this year failed to clear 300,000 viewers.