Last weekend may not have had a UFC event, but it was nevertheless filled with MMA and boxing cards, and the ratings and viewership figures have been revealed.
We’ll start off with what was the biggest show of the weekend, WBO welterweight champion Terence Crawford’s dramatic 12th round TKO of Jose Benavidez Jr. The Top Rank on ESPN broadcast averaged 2.245 million viewers, peaking at 2.7 million for the main event, with a rating of 0.81, good for 4th among all cable programs on Saturday night. It’s 2018’s most-watched fight — boxing or MMA — on cable or network television. The main lead-in was a college football game between #1 ranked Alabama and Missouri, which was a mismatch on paper and a comfortable Alabama win. That broadcast averaged 3.758 million viewers and a 1.1 rating among the 18-49 demographic, so that lead-in helped, but 15-minute blocks suggest that viewership actually built up to the main event.
This is the second-highest rating and viewership number for Top Rank under their ESPN deal, only behind Jeff Horn’s controversial win over Manny Pacquiao in July 2017. The grudge match storyline certainly helped sell Benavidez as an opponent, but this is hugely encouraging for Crawford’s star power beyond just being a ticket-seller in his home state of Nebraska. 2.7 million more than doubles his number from when he stopped Julius Indongo in Augusy 2017, which was his most recent televised fight. His win over Jeff Horn in June was shown on the ESPN+ streaming service.
As for Bellator MMA, they had cards on Friday and Saturday, with the latter representing a much higher profile main event. Bellator 207 averaged just 416,000 viewers on Paramount Network, with a 0.20 rating that ranked 29th for Friday cable programming. According to Viacom officials, the main event between Ryan Bader and Matt Mitrione “delivered 620,000 viewers peaking with 798,000,” basing that off DVR+3 numbers. They also added that Bellator 207 “delivered the highest ratings among Adults 18-49 for a Friday event since May 2017.” It’s also their highest-rated event over the last four months.
Bellator 208, which had Fedor Emelianenko taking on Chael Sonnen in the other heavyweight tournament semifinal, and that three-hour broadcast averaged 521,000 viewers and a 0.22 rating, ranked 22nd on Saturday. DVR+3 numbers were not revealed and likely won’t be until Thursday. This is essentially on par with Fedor vs. Frank Mir, which had 581,000 viewers and an identical 0.22 rating, with an additional 169,000 watching on a CMT simulcast. The DVR+3 peak viewership for that fight was 1.5 million viewers, so perhaps they’ll fare just as well when Bellator 208 numbers are announced. Fedor is responsible for two of Bellator’s better-rated cards of 2018, but certainly a far cry from what they were capable of even in January 2017.
For the record, viewing figures for both Bellator cards on DAZN are unknown.
Lastly, the Professional Fighters League’s lightweight and light-heavyweight playoffs averaged 88,000 viewers on NBC Sports Network, and did not crack cable’s top-150 programming for Saturday.