The UFC 181 prelims, which featured Urijah Faber, did slightly above the usual average, with 840,000 viewers.
The figure was up from the 624,000 viewers for the UFC 180 prelims, which was the Fabricio Werdum vs. Mark Hunt show. That prelims show had head-to-head competition from Bellator in the second hour. The prelims before UFC 179, which was the Jose Aldo vs. Chad Mendes pay-per-view, did 536,000 viewers. However, with two championship matches, one a rematch of a match of the year candidate, the other built up on The Ultimate Fighter, this show figured to have far more interest than any pay-per-view since July. Currently, since moving to FOX Sports 1, prelims before pay-per-view events average 809,000 viewers.
In the key 18-49 demo, the audience was 545,000 viewers, up from the average to date of 503,000.
Faber's controversial victory over Francisco Rivera headlined the four-fight prelims that also included former TUF winners Corey Anderson and Eddie Gordon, the latter suffering a knockout of the year candidate in his loss to Josh Samman. Faber had appeared on the prelims of UFC 175, in a match with Alex Caceres, which drew 1 million viewers. But UFC 175 had a stronger marquee main card with Chris Weidman and Ronda Rousey, meaning more fans were making UFC appointment viewing that night.
What was good news from a ratings standpoint, and one that is more difficult to explain, is that the pre-fight show that aired from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. ET on FS1, did 606,000 viewers. It was the most-watched pre-fight show in history, and given some of the major events since the move was made to FOX and these type of shows started, that seemed to come out of nowhere. And it's notable that the number didn't lead to any kind of extraordinary viewership of the prelims that followed.
The next-to-last episode of The Ultimate Fighter, featuring semifinal fights of Carla Esparza vs Tecia Torres and Rose Namajunas vs. Joanne Calderwood did 532,000 viewers for the first airing of the show. Between Thursday and Saturday, another 210,000 watched via DVR, making a total of 742,000 viewers. Live viewers were almost identical with the prior week, but DVR viewership was down 27 percent from the previous week's show.