The fourth episode of Ultimate Fighter rebounded from its record ratings low last week, to its best numbers of the season, even against an usually tough night of competition.
But that was the only real good ratings number for MMA this weekend. The lead-in FX Fight Night headlined by Travis Browne vs. Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva set new lows both for the main show and the prelims on Fuel. Bellator, going head-to-head with Fight Night, like most regular Friday night shows geared toward adult males, also took a dip.
The culprit looks to have been Major League Baseball wild card series play, which won the night for TBS, with 5,304,000 viewers.
Ultimate Fighter drew 1,056,000, up a whopping 36 percent from week three's all-time record low of 775,000. But taking this as a sign that the characters this season are catching on would be premature unless the number holds up next week.
The increase was more likely due to the lead-in of UFC on FX 5 from Minneapolis. That show did 1,084,000 viewers, meaning that most viewers who watched the fight card stuck around for TUF, including a number who likely wouldn't have watched it otherwise.
The previous low for a UFC on FX card was the June 8 show headlined by Demetrious Johnson vs. Ian McCall had the previous low with 1.09 million viewers. The prelims on Fuel did 44,000 viewers, only half of the previous low, also set on June 8, of 88,000.
The FX version of the show was the second-highest rated show of the night in the Male 18-34 demographic, trailing only baseball. In the demographic, it beat perennial Friday night hit, WWE Smackdown. However, because of wrestling's reach to both more older and younger viewers, Smackdown delivered more than double the total audience head-to-head.
Ultimate Fighter was fifth in its time slot in Males 18-34, trailing baseball, a comedy block on Comedy Central,, American Dad on Adult Swim and College Football on ESPN.
UFC on FX 4, held on June 22 in Atlantic City, N.J., did 1.31 million viewers on FX and 160,000 viewers for the prelims on Fuel.
Bellator, with the first round of its heavyweight tournament dropped 24 percent from last week to 145,000 viewers. That drop would be expected because it had head-to-head competition from the UFC show, not to mention the baseball and college football games.
Far more important to UFC's bottom line, pay-per-view numbers for UFC 152 held on Sept. 22 in Toronto, headlined by Jon Jones defending his light heavyweight title against Vitor Belfort, are currently estimated at doing 450,000 buys. The company does not release PPV numbers and numbers are estimates from cable sources. That would be the fourth-highest number of the year, trailing shows headlined by Anderson Silva vs. Chael Sonnen, Jones vs. Rashad Evans, and Junior Dos Santos vs. Frank Mir.
The number would fall in line with what most had predicted going in. The number was likely significantly lower than what Jones would have drawn against either Dan Henderson or Chael Sonnen. The number seems to show that six weeks between pay-per-view events caused by UFC 151 being canceled didn't make any significant difference in buys. However, UFC 152 would have surely done significantly lower had Jones not been on the show and Johnson vs. Joseph Benavidez been promoted as the main event.