Running three events in eight days did not benefit UFC in ratings for Wednesday night's show in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.
The last three hours of the live show, headlined by three quick wins, Glover Teixeira's over Ryan Bader, Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza's over Yushin Okami and Joseph Benavidez over Jussier Formiga, did 539,000 viewers on FOX Sports 1. Ratings for the prelim fights were not available at press time.
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The number is down 35 percent from the 824,000 from the Fight Night on Aug. 28 from Indianapolis, headlined by Carlos Condit vs. Martin Kampmann. Saturday's prelims on FS 1 before UFC 164 did 809,000 viewers, down from the 1.3 million average those shows had been doing on FX.
The heavily-promoted debut of The Ultimate Fighter, featuring coaches Ronda Rousey and Miesha Tate, opened to 762,000 viewers. The lowest-rated season opener previously, for season 16 coached by Roy Nelson and Shane Carwin, debuted at 947,000 viewers. That season aired on FX on Friday night.
It was inevitable the ratings would be hurt from the move from FX to upstart FS 1, particularly among non-hardcore fans and women, which this season's show would have likely had stronger appeal with. Still, the Rousey-Tate rivalry going in was one of the strongest the company had with coaches in years. In addition, having men and women fighters in the same house looked to have freshened up the show.
The reality is that it's going to take time to build the station. The exceptional first night now looks like it was an aberration and not an indication of what UFC shows are going to be able to pull on a regular basis. While the station is building, UFC's viewing numbers are likely to be significantly lower for the major TV live cards and TUF episodes than any time in the group's television history.
The Brazil show was barely ahead of a March show on Fuel featuring Brian Stann vs. Wanderlei Silva from Japan that did 485,000 viewers. What makes that notable is that Fuel only reached 37 million homes at the time while Fox Sports 1 reaches 89 million homes.
With the exception of Fuel shows, it was, by a significant amount, the least-watched live UFC card since it first got on national television in 2005.
On the debut of FS 1 just 18 days earlier, 1,782,000 viewers watched the UFC show headlined by Chael Sonnen vs. Mauricio "Shogun" Rua.
There are going to be growing pains as a new channel starts and people become familiar with it. But even accounting for that, this level of decline for live fight cards is significant. The Ultimate Fighter is likely to be far ahead of any other weekly television series on the station, but it looks like it's going to be seen by far less people than any previous season.
There also may be an issue, which explains Fight Master ratings as well, that with so much MMA programming on television, more than all but the most ardent fan can keep up with, that the attractiveness of watching lesser name fighters in an empty gym with no commentary has run its course.