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Bellator sets viewership record for Saturday night special

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

As most would have expected, the biggest and most hyped show in Bellator history drew the largest television audience ever to see the product.

Saturday's show from Long Beach, Calif., originally a pay-per-view, turned into a Spike TV special, did an average of 1.1 million viewers over the three hours of 45 minutes of programming.

The show broke the company's record of 938,000 viewers set on its debut on the network on Jan. 17, a show that featured two championship fights, Michael Chandler vs. Rick Hawn for the lightweight title, and Pat Curran vs. Patricio "Pitbull" Freire for the featherweight title.

This show did more than one better when it came to quality of the lineup. Chandler headlined against former champion Eddie Alvarez in a rematch of the most famous, and arguably the best fight in Bellator history. The rematch, a five-round war where Alvarez won a razor-thin split decision, saw the Philadelphia product capture the title and set up a third meeting. The show also had Curran lose his title to Daniel Straus, and an interim light heavyweight title fight with Emanuel Newton winning a decision over "King" Mo Lawal.

The 1.1 million viewers would have been the most-watched live MMA fight show on U.S. television since UFC's debut on Fox Sports 1 on Aug. 17.

The show was moved to a Spike special after weeks of television and print advertising had gone out for the event as a pay-per-view headlined by Tito Ortiz vs. Rampage Jackson. Bellator MMA and Spike changed plans just days before the event when Ortiz pulled out of the fight due to a fractured neck.

Because the show ran long, and those who attempted to watch the show via DVR may have missed much of the main event, Spike announced the complete Chandler vs. Alvarez main event would be replayed on Friday night at 8 p.m., serving as a lead-in to the usual 9 p.m. start weekly show. Cheick Kongo vs. Peter Graham in the finals of a heavyweight tournament, and Joe Warren vs. Travis Marx in the finals of the bantamweight tournament, headline the live show. The winners of both fights are in line for title shots.

The show peaked at 1.4 million viewers at 11:17 p.m., so the late time slot also prevented the maximum number of viewers to watch the main event, which started at about 12:10 a.m.

Spike finished second in the Male 18-49 demographic on cable Saturday night.

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