The new season of Ultimate Fighter: Nations is destined to be the lowest-rated season in the show's history. That isn't unexpected since it was aimed more for the Canadian and Australian markets and wasn't promoted like a typical season. The Jan. 15 debut did 371,000 viewers on Fox Sports 1 and the second episode on Jan. 22 fell to 253,000, the two least-watched, first-run episodes ever. The third episode, on Jan. 29, was moved to FS 2, but it will return to FS 1 in its usual 10 p.m. Wednesday night slot on Feb. 5.
For a comparison, the first two episodes of the heavily promoted Ronda Rousey vs. Miesha Tate season did 762,000 and 870,000, and the show was consistently doing another 250,000 or more viewers watching Friday through Sunday via DVR.
As for Saturday night's UFC on FOX 10 event, it did healthy numbers, particularly for a show that looked weaker than usual on paper.
The event, headlined by a five-round split decision win by Benson Henderson over Josh Thomson, did a 1.9 rating and 3.2 million viewers. The number was slightly above the 1.7 rating and 2.8 million viewers drawn by the previous FOX show on Dec. 14. The December show looked to be a stronger lineup on paper, with a Demetrious Johnson vs. Joseph Benavidez flyweight title fight, plus Urijah Faber vs. Michael McDonald in a battle of top bantamweight contenders. From the standpoint of overall fights, the December show was clearly the better of the two, but that usually means little when it comes to ratings.
The number was well below the late January FOX show last year, which featured Johnson defending against John Dodson and a Rampage Jackson vs. Glover Teixeira fight, which did a 2.43 rating and 4.22 million viewers. Name fighters who were onetime big pay-per-view draws like Jackson, B.J. Penn or Chael Sonnen have generally proven to be the most successful type of fighters to draw television ratings.
It finished second to CBS programming for the night in total viewers, but was considered the big winner of the night on television. Its 1.47 rating in the 18-49 demographic made it the highest rated show for the night on either broadcast or cable television. With a predominately male audience skew, and a 2.05 rating in the Male 18-49 demographic, it easily beat anything else on television for the night.
Lacking a title match or a strong undercard, with Donald Cerrone as the biggest name along with the two headliners, the show didn't figure to do quite as well as it did. UFC on FOX shows during football season usually do stronger than shows during the rest of the year because of advertising on football games that hits the Male 18-49 demographic UFC draws from.
For a comparison, FOX the previous Saturday, airing reruns of "Almost Human" and "The Following" in the same time slot, did a 0.4 rating in the 18-34 demo and 1.36 million viewers, so UFC boosted numbers by more than double in total viewers and nearly quadrupled the viewership numbers in the 18-49 demographic.
The prelims, which aired from 5-8 p.m. Eastern and 2-5 p.m. Pacific time on FS 1, did a 0.6 rating and 713,000 viewers, up from 613,000 for the Dec. 14 show.