We've already wrote a lot about the importance of UFC on Fox 1: Velasquez vs. Dos Santos, the UFC's debut on network TV, and we have early analysis on the production and how it was all presented. By our reckoning, the production was top notch and showed a lot of promise for future events and fights on the Fox network. But the most significant part of this was all about the ratings – how would the show do and how would it compare to previous network TV outings for the sport of MMA?
It's a mixed bag of results. Early estimates have the UFC broadcast at 4.6 million viewers. This is a bit lower than most were expecting, and much lower than the highest to date – over six million viewers for Kimbo Slice vs. James Thompson on CBS in 2008, the most-watched MMA event of all time. The reason that's another low blow is the fact that Slice was universally considered a backroom brawler and more of a freakshow than a legitimate MMA fighter. It's insulting because, at the time, the potential new viewers and casual fans saw this guy, Slice, who really was a poor representative for the sport.
And now, on Saturday, we had two of the best fighters in the sport of MMA in Cain Velasquez and Junior Dos Santos, and they didn't receive the same level of attention from a potential new audience. That being said, there's a couple saving graces. For one, we had Manny Pacquiao on boxing Saturday, which didn't directly interfere with the broadcast, but the buzz was there and clearly, that kind of fight will eclipse MMA … for the time being. For two, the fight did well in the 18-to-49-year old demographic, scoring a 2.4 rating and a 7 share. Those numbers are comparable to the Stanford-Oregon game on ABC Saturday, so that's a very good sign. That game did better overall, with a big chunk of older viewers, but it's nice that the UFC is resonating well with the demo, against boxing and college football.
The numbers are also subject to a bit of adjustment, once they pin down just how many people were watching for the 64 seconds that the two fighters were actually going at it. Dos Santos finished the fight at 1:04 into the first round by TKO, limiting the number of people who could have been channel surfing and stumbling on a fight and limiting the number of people who were just trying to bypass the analysis and catch the fight. Expect some more in-depth numbers in the coming days.