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UFC on ESPN: Gaethje vs. Barboza averages 828,000 viewers, peaks at 1.4 million

Heavy competition from college basketball led to the UFC’s latest ESPN offering failing to average 1 million viewers.

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The UFC’s second major show on ESPN television didn’t fare nearly as well as the inaugural one from two months ago.

Nielsen measured last Saturday’s UFC on ESPN: Gaethje vs. Barboza main card as averaging 828,000 viewers, with a rating of 0.26. That’s well down from the 1.46 million main card viewers for UFC on ESPN: Ngannou vs. Velasquez on February 17th, with a rating of 0.59 despite competition from the NBA All-Star Game that Sunday evening.

For the Gaethje vs. Barboza main card, the main competition that night was the NCAA men’s basketball quarterfinals (otherwise known as the “Elite Eight”), as Texas Tech vs. Gonzaga averaged more than 7.7 million viewers, while Virginia vs. Purdue topped the cable programming with almost 10.5 million viewers and a 2.93 rating.

MMA Fighting’s Dave Meltzer has more details:

With the competition, the UFC drew an older audience and one where viewership concentrated on the main event rather than the complete show. The highest ratings were for viewers over the age of 50, which is rare for a UFC show.

The UFC only finished ninth in the 18-49 male demo for the day, because of all the basketball-related programming, a category that a UFC event would be expected most nights to battle for first place in.

Among the major markets, the UFC’s strongest marks were an 0.9 rating in Atlanta, 0.8 in Washington, D.C., and 0.6 in New York and San Francisco.

Justin Gaethje’s first-round KO of Edson Barboza peaked at 1.4 million viewers, so this top-heavy card had top-heavy viewership as well.

The two-hour preliminary card, which ran from 5-7 PM ET, averaged 480,000 viewers and a 0.15 rating, finishing 46th for cable ratings.

Immediately following the UFC was a Top Rank Boxing doubleheader that ultimately fizzled in terms of action, but nevertheless did pull in 655,000 viewers and a 0.17 rating for a card headlined by Oleksandr Gvozdyk’s injury TKO win over WBC light heavyweight title challenger Doudou Ngumbu. Top Rank ranked 33rd for ratings that day, so there was a significant dropoff in the 18-49 demo after the UFC event ended.

It should be noted that the next UFC broadcast on ESPN will have the NBA playoffs as the lead-in programming, so that should lead to strong viewership for the UFC 236 prelims on April 13th.

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