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UFC on ESPN: Covington vs. Lawler averages 680,000 viewers, peaks at 945,000 for main event

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The ratings and viewing figures are in for Colby Covington’s first ever UFC main event.

MMA: UFC Newark- Covington vs Lawler Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

How big of a draw is Colby Covington as a UFC main event fighter? Well we have some answers. We think.

Nielsen pegged last Saturday’s UFC on ESPN main card as averaging 680,000 viewers, with the prelims getting 523,000 viewers. The main card finished 5th overall among all cable programming for the day, with a 0.27 rating in the 18-49 demographic. It was the most-watched sports program on cable, although early August is a decidedly dead period of time for sports on US television.

MMA Fighting’s Dave Meltzer has more details:

The show had the lowest audience of the five ESPN Fight Night main shows to date. That was largely expected because of the afternoon time slot and being in the summer. The only other afternoon show, a March 30 show which started at 4 p.m., headlined by Justin Gaethje vs. Edson Barboza, did 828,000 viewers.

The show peaked at 945,000 viewers for the main event.

In the main card time slot, the UFC show was the most-watched show in all male under-50 demos, including network shows such as NBC’s broadcast of NASCAR and CBS airing PGA golf.

So UFC Newark was the least-watched main card on ESPN to date, but the caveat here was the 3 PM ET main card start time, whereas the other shows began between 7-9 PM ET.

Perhaps this also had an impact at the arena, as the Prudential Center live gate was $688,000, the lowest of all ESPN televised shows. The gate and attendance (10,427) were both the lowest ever out of eight UFC events in the Prudential Center.

Interpret these numbers as you see fit. This was Covington’s first UFC main event, and it was under the rare circumstance of a US-based show airing in the early afternoon. Would he have fared substantially better if this was a standard primetime event? We won’t know, but it looks like the next step for Covington will be a pay-per-view showdown with reigning welterweight champion Kamaru Usman. Neither one of those fighters has served as a pay-per-view headliner before.