If you could describe the UFC on FOX series from its start one year ago, the word would be frustration.
The first two shows did good ratings but were very disappointing when it came to action. The second two shows provided plenty of great action, but did weak ratings.
The 12/8 show from the Key Arena in Seattle answered a lot of questions. The show was among the best UFC shows from top-to-bottom in recent memory.
Perhaps more significant is what FOX means to UFC past the obvious ratings, which is creating stars. UFC had a big audience see 23-year-old Rory MacDonald come off like a robotic serial killer like villain who was remarkably hated, but in a good way, and thrashed B.J. Penn, the classic torch passing in combat sports. They had a big audience seeing Alexander Gustafsson beat another legend, Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, to establish himself as a light heavyweight title contender.
The biggest audience of all saw Benson Henderson, coming off headlining the worst gate for a UFC PPV show and the lowest numbers for a championship match as lightweight champion.
The big audience, likely more than 6 million people, saw Henderson come across like a genuine world champion. Henderson came across in every aspect of the game like a superstar before a large audience that grew tremendously as the fight went on.
The 10 p.m. to 10:35 p.m. time frame when the main event was going on did a 3.3 rating and 5.7 million viewers on FOX. It grew the audience 1.2 million from the prior match, among the best audience growth numbers in MMA history, owing both to the fact they had 30 minutes to grow the audience, that the fight was exciting and people clearly took the championship seriously. At 5.7 million viewers, it was the ninth most-watched MMA fight ever in the U.S. on television.
The other thing is the real numbers in all those categories is likely up a few percentages from that, since it also aired live on FOX Deportes in Spanish. We don’t have numbers available from that broadcast but it would have added a few hundred thousand more viewers. If the fight itself would have been a 30 minute television show on its own, it would have been the most watched show on broadcast or cable for the night.
MOST WATCHED MMA BOUTS ON U.S. TELEVISION
1. Junior Dos Santos vs. Cain Velasquez, November 12, 2011, 9,566,000 (FOX & Fox Deportes)
2. Kimbo Slice vs. James Thompson, May 31, 2008, 7,281,000 (CBS)
3. Ken Shamrock vs. Tito Ortiz, October 10, 2006, 6,524,000 (Spike)
4. Kimbo Slice vs. Seth Petruzelli, October 4, 2008, 6,451,000 (CBS)
5. Rashad Evans vs. Phil Davis, January 28, 2012, 6,400,000 (FOX & Fox Deportes)
6. Kimbo Slice vs. Roy Nelson, September 30, 2009, 6,100,000 (Spike)
7. Robbie Lawler vs. Scott Smith, May 31, 2008, 5,867,000 (CBS)
8. Quinton Jackson vs. Dan Henderson, September 8, 2007, 5,811,000 (Spike)
9. Benson Henderson vs. Nate Diaz, December 8, 2012, 5,700,000 (FOX)*
10. Gina Carano vs. Kaitlyn Young, May 31, 2008, 5,508,000 (CBS)
11. Michael Bisping vs. Matt Hamill, September 8, 2007, 5,475,000 (Spike)
12. Fedor Emelianenko vs. Brett Rogers, November 7, 2009, 5,467,000 (CBS)
13. Jake Shields vs. Paul Daley, October 4, 2008, 5,338,000 (CBS)
14. Michael Bisping vs. Chael Sonnen, January 28, 2012, 5,200,000 (FOX & Fox Deportes)
15. Gina Carano vs. Kelly Kobold, October 4, 2008, 5,171,000 (CBS)
*Does not include Fox Deportes numbers which were unavailable at press time, and would likely put the total figure between 6.0 and 6.2 million, putting it in sixth or seventh place all-time