Running shows on successive nights ended up as a mixed bag when it came to the UFC's weekend ratings.
The Friday night show, headlined by the finals of "The Ultimate Fighter: The Smashes," a series that was not broadcast in the U.S., did 972,000 viewers.
That number was the lowest of the eight live main cards broadcast this year on FX (not including airing prelims before major shows), which previously had ranged between 1.1 million and 1.4 million viewers. But that shouldn't be unexpected, given two shows over the weekend and for marquee value to most fans, this being the second priority.
The main event of coaches George Sotiropolous vs. Ross Pearson wasn't going to have major appeal in the U.S., since almost none of the buildup for the fight was available nor talked about on U.S. television.
The show still beat out all but two episodes of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) season 16 reality show that had been airing weekly the past three months on Friday nights. The prelims on Fuel did 96,000 viewers which was right on average. The average rating for Fuel prelims of UFC events for 2012, with Saturday being the final show, ended up averaging 94,000 viewers.
The Saturday show, from Las Vegas, was more successful. The finals of the TUF season 16 in the U.S. drew 1.3 million viewers. Besides a main event with heavyweight Roy Nelson knocking out Matt Mitrione in the first round, the fighters overall were far more familiar to the U.S. audience. The Mike Ricci vs. Colton Smith TUF finals climaxed a three-month season, and popular heavyweight Pat Barry, former TUF winner Jonathan Brookins and featherweight contender Dustin Poirier, were all on the main card.
It tied for second place among the eight FX live cards this year, trailing only the second show in March headlined by Martin Kampmann's win over Thiago Alves. It also handily beat out the season 15 finals in June, which did 1.02 million viewers. It was still lower than 13 of the 14 season finales that had aired on Spike. The prelims on Fuel did 104,000 viewers.
Bellator also ran its final episode of the current season on Friday night. Even though it was running head-to-head with the UFC event from Australia, the show did 191,000 viewers, its second-highest total of the season. The previous week's television show had pushed three tournament finals, but only one of those fights actually took place.
Bellator's final season on MTV 2 on Friday night averaged 162,000 viewers. The number was up slightly from the 155,000 for the spring season.
Both The Ultimate Fighter and Bellator numbers have been down this year since each group moved to Fridays at the start of 2012. It proved to be a bad night for ratings since the target MMA audience of males 25-40 don't watch a lot of television Friday nights.
In mid-January, The Ultimate Fighter will move to Tuesdays on FX. The expectation is that a better night, combined with higher profile coaches in Jon Jones and Chael Sonnen, will lead to a significant turnaround in ratings that set record lows this past season.
Bellator debuts on Thursday nights on Spike, with a live 10 p.m. ET time slot. Spike is not only available in 98 million homes, compared to less than 75 million homes that carry MTV 2, but also is a far higher-profile network and is more associated with MMA. Even under a worst possible case scenario, ratings for Bellator would be expected to triple with more promotion, a better station and a better night.