Bellator may have found at least a small star this past week in flyweight champion Ilima-Lei Macfarlane.
Friday night’s Bellator show on Paramount did 466,000 viewers based on the live airing. While on the surface that number doesn’t sound big, the only Bellator show on Paramount since the end of February to beat that number was the April 28 show headlined by Fedor Emelianenko vs. Frank Mir.
This includes shows headlined by Benson Henderson, Michael Chandler, Ryan Bader, “King Mo” Lawal and Gegard Mousasi, all of whom have been stars for a number of years, many with extensive UFC tenure. There are shows that aired on both Paramount and CMT where combined viewership was higher, but not Paramount numbers themselves.
In addition, this number was from a smaller casino event as opposed to one of the more high profile events from the promotion.
Macfarlane (8-0), submitted Alejandra Lara in the third round on Friday night’s show in Temecula, Calif., in her first title defense since becoming the first Bellator champion at 125 pounds in November with a win over Emily Ducote.
The audience was heavily skewed to males over the age of 35, similar to most televised MMA events, with similar numbers in both the 35-49 and 50+ age groups.
It’s not yet as clear whether another female star who got a lot of talk in a smaller promotion is also a numbers mover.
Kayla Harrison, the two-time Olympic gold medalist in judo, was along with Will Brooks, one of the two biggest stars on the PFL’s June 21 show. That show, featuring Harrison’s pro debut, did 150,000 viewers, which was a 29 percent increase over the PFL debut numbers two weeks earlier on NBC Sports Network.
But those numbers are still below the 175,000 to 225,000 range that the old World Series of Fighting used to average during its run.