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Ratings report: Edgar vs. Swanson does 903,000 viewers against tough competition

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

UFC Fight Night 57, which faced strong sports competition on Saturday, led FOX Sports 1 to a strong Saturday night in the ratings.

The Frankie Edgar vs. Cub Swanson main event, pitting two of the company's top four featherweights in its rankings against each other, led the main card to drawing 903,000 viewers, up 11 percent from the usual Fight Night average. The show's peak quarter hour was 1,021,000 viewers. For a comparison, the Nov. 8 Fight Night show did 699,000 viewers, and the prelims before UFC 180 did 624,000 viewers.

The competition for Edgar vs. Swanson included Manny Pacquiao vs. Chris Algieri on pay-per-view, plus college football, with USC vs. UCLA doing 3.6 million viewers on ABC and Missouri vs. Tennessee doing 3.3 million viewers on ESPN. Both games ended before UFC's main event went into the cage, but they did go against much of the main card.

What helped the show is the main event going the nearly full five rounds, with Edgar finishing with four seconds left in the final round. This gave the headliners more than 30 minutes between intros and fight time to build the audience. There is a substantial correlation between the length of the main event and the success of the ratings.

Interest carried over after the show, as FOX Sports Live, which featured interviews and analysis, did 446,000 viewers, more than double the usual number the show does on Saturday night in that time slot. Even more important, most of those viewers UFC brought to the table were in the 18-49 demographic. The show did 345,000 viewers in the key demo, more than triple the Saturday average in the slot.

The prelims, which had nothing special from a marquee value perspective, did 777,000 viewers, well above the 468,000 Fight Night prelims average since the move to FS1. Heavyweights Josh Copeland and Ruslan Magomedov headlined and neither are well-known names. The closest thing to names on the show were veteran Yves Edwards, and former Ultimate Fighter competitors Luke Barnatt and James Vick.

The biggest star created that night was, ironically, not even on television.

Paige VanZant, who defeated Kailin Curran in a match that only aired on Fight Pass, ended up getting a huge delayed reaction, likely from post-show media coverage. There were more than 100,000 searches for VanZant, the seventh most of any topic on Monday. She was as high as No. 3, behind only stories related to Ferguson, Mo., in early listings. In final tabulations, the only larger sports related search was for the Dallas Cowboys.

It is almost unheard of for an MMA fighter to garner that much interest two days after a fight. Usually that level is limited to pay-per-view main eventers after a big drawing event.

Spike TV on Friday night ran a replay of Bellator 131, the company's record-breaking show, headlined by Tito Ortiz vs. Stephan Bonnar. The replay did 617,000 viewers. That's just slightly below what Bellator was getting on the Friday night time slot for live fights. The total audience for the three airings of the show was 2.3 million viewers, and the main event total audience was closer to 3.3 million viewers.

In all, 8.8 million different people watched at least one minute of the show if you combine the three airings, which were a live airing and a replay on Nov. 15, plus the Friday replay.

The lone weak number of the past seven days was the Nov. 19 edition of Ultimate Fighter, which did a season-low 381,000 viewers watching that night and 256,000 DVR viewers, for 637,000 total. That's a surprise since the show featured Felice Herrig vs. Randa Markos, and was heavily promoted with clips indicating a lot of heat between the two. A clip aired throughout the week of Herrig blowing a bubble from bubble gum in Markos' face after weigh-ins, which Markos slapped practically out of her mouth.