Conor McGregor proved to be a top draw again as Bellator’s taped show from Dublin, Ireland, largely due to his antics that night, did its best Friday night numbers in six months.
Going against a plethora of college football and boxing competition, UFC’s Saturday night Fight Night, headlined by Dustin Poirier’s third-round stoppage win over Anthony Pettis, averaged 837,000 viewers on FS1.
The number is slightly below the UFC primetime average for the year of 871,000 viewers. It was one of this year’s better shows, both from the number of recognizable fighters and for action, of the Fight Night shows.
Besides college football on ABC, FOX, ESPN and ESPN 2, the UFC’s main card also went against boxing on ESPN and HBO.
ESPN’s Top Rank boxing show, headlined by Artur Beterbiev battling Enrico Koelling for the vacant IBF light heavyweight title, did 1,467,000 viewers, the second most-watched boxing telecast on cable of the year, trailing only the July 1 Manny Pacquiao vs. Jeff Horn fight. The boxing number greatly benefited by a strong lead-in from college football with the Alabama vs. Mississippi State game doing 7,031,000 viewers.
HBO’s boxing show, headlined by Daniel Jacobs vs. Luis Arias, averaged 706,000 viewers for the main event itself, after starting the telecast with 406,000 viewers.
The Poirier vs. Pettis main event had the peak audience for the UFC show at 965,000 viewers.
It should be noted that HBO is available in about 35 million U.S. homes as compared to 84 million for FS1.
The UFC show also had 13,891 viewers streaming during an average minute on Fox Sports Go and FOX Now.
The prelims, headlined by a battle of top bantamweights with former World Series of Fighting champion Marlon Moraes beating former Ultimate Fighter winner John Dodson, averaged 726,000 viewers. The show also featured Sage Northcutt on the undercard. It was the highest rated prelims for a Fight Night on FS1 since March, and the sports competition on a Saturday night in March is significantly easier. There were also 11,543 viewers streaming the prelims during an average minute.
The ratings highlight for the weekend was the post-fight show on FS1 averaged 369,000 viewers, making it the third highest after a Fight Night show in history, and the best since March 2016, after the Mark Hunt vs. Frank Mir fight.
The pre-fight show did 272,000 viewers. The weigh-ins did 101,000 viewers.
Friday night’s Bellator show, headlined by A.J. McKee’s win over Brian Moore, did 575,000 viewers. It was the best number for a Bellator Friday night show in nearly six months, dating back to the May 19 show, headlined by Rory McDonald vs. Paul Daley, that did 607,000 viewers.
The most noteworthy take is that both Friday’s show and the May 19 show were from Europe — Dublin, Ireland and London, England, respectively — meaning both aired on tape delay.
It’s pretty clear the Bellator number was drawn because of the media coverage earlier in the day of Conor McGregor hopping the cage after the Charlie Ward win over John Redmond, since that fight and post-fight were the most-watched portions of the show.
Given the main event and lineup as a whole, the show would have been expected to do closer to 450,000 viewers had it not been for all the publicity earlier in the day involving McGregor’s behavior.