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UFC 249 prelims averaged 1.15 million viewers, peaked at 1.6 million on ESPN

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More good numbers for the UFC’s return to action.

UFC 249 Ferguson v Gaethje Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images

We know that the UFC 249 pay-per-view buyrate was reportedly a smash hit, and now the numbers are in for the televised preliminary card.

Nielsen ratings place Saturday’s four-hour ESPN broadcast 2nd among all cable programming, narrowly behind Live PD on A&E. The average viewership was 1.15 million viewers, peaking at roughly 1.6 million for the Donald Cerrone vs. Anthony Pettis matchup in the 9:45-10 PM ET quarter-hour.

On the surface it’s actually the least-watched PPV prelim special of the year for the UFC. However, this card’s entire preliminary slate was broadcast compared to just the two-hour window from 8-10 PM ET. If you re-focused the numbers to that standard two-hour window, the viewership climbs to just over 1.46 million viewers.

ESPN+ also simulcast the prelims and Sports Business Journal’s John Ourand reported that estimates are another 500,000 watched through that platform. It’s certainly not normal for any of these ESPN+ numbers to be reported (and not this quickly), but it’s not like these are normal times.

UFC 249: Ferguson vs. Gaethje was a big card but with no proven PPV draws. With no other major sports on and no UFC for nearly two months, the results speak for themselves and it’s a win for the UFC and ESPN amid this COVID-19 pandemic. While it may be lofty to suggest there was huge interest even from non-fight fans, casual and hardcore fight fans who needed their fix definitely tuned in on Saturday night.

The UFC’s next pay-per-view is June 6th, and while not officially announced as such, the current main event is a women’s featherweight title defense for two-division champion Amanda Nunes against Canada’s Felicia Spencer.