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UFC wins ratings battle on Friday night, but Bellator comes close in head-to-head period

The verdict on a Friday night where UFC, Bellator, WWE Smackdown and College Football all aired, is that for the most part, each show did about what it would have done without the competition. UFC did better than its average for Wednesdays and most Saturdays, while Bellator did right at its average.

Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Based on preliminary numbers, it's hard to come to a conclusion as to what it meant for Bellator and UFC to go head-to-head on Friday night, past that it doesn't appear either hurt the other significantly, and that each product looks to have more of its own audience as opposed to an audience that switched back-and-forth.

Overall, the UFC show from Ledyard, Conn., headlined by Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza's win over Gegard Mousasi, did 911,000 viewers on average between when the main card started at 10 p.m. and the conclusion of the main event. That number was well ahead of what UFC had done the previous two Saturday nights with a Benson Henderson vs. Rafael dos Anjos led UFC Fight Night (689,000) and the UFC 177 prelims (an unusually low 436,000). Even with the competition, it was well ahead of what they average on either Saturdays or Wednesdays. It was also a show with more familiar names -- like Alistair Overeem, Ben Rothwell, Matt Mitrione and Joe Lauzon -- than most Fight Nights, so it should have done better than average.

But as far as a test market of Friday, it did better than Wednesdays would do with a similar lineup and no MMA competition, and in the realm of what a Saturday show with that lineup would have done, with no competition, it's at a similar level.

Bellator's season opener, with a loaded lineup, averaged 667,000 viewers between 8 p.m. to 10:45 p.m., for a show headlined by Patricio "Pitbull" Freire's featherweight title win over Pat Curran, plus wins by Kong Mo Lawal, Cheick Kongo and TNA pro wrestling champion Bobby Lashley. That number is almost identical to what Bellator averages on Fridays. What appeared to happen is the added star power of the show was offset by the UFC competition, and perhaps hurt a little by the unfamiliar one hour earlier starting time.

Segment ratings were unavailable at press time.

The UFC prelims, airing from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., did 485,000 viewers. It does appear Bellator could have affected that number negatively, but another factor is it aired 4-7 p.m. on the West Coast, which would hurt a lot more on a Friday than that time slot would be hurt on a Saturday.

The MMA shows also had cable competition from WWE's Friday Night Smackdown show from 8-10 p.m., which did 2,758,000 viewers. What this showed is that even with two MMA events going on, the WWE show drew right at its average, although WWE did load the show up by putting on top star John Cena. ESPN aired College Football from 7-10:30 p.m. doing 1,871,000 viewers. From 10:30 p.m. onward, the late night game -- which went against the bulk of the UFC show -- did 1,217,000 viewers.

In the 18-49 demo, the UFC main card and the College Football game dueled evenly, but UFC was also in about ten million less homes on FS1 than ESPN.

In the head-to-head main card period, which was 10 p.m. to 10:45 p.m., where UFC aired Lauzon vs. Michael Chiesa and Mitrione vs. Derrick Lewis, and Bellator ran mostly its featherweight title fight, the numbers were close, with UFC doing 781,000 viewers and Bellator doing 728,000 viewers.

Given the combined viewership during that period was 1,509,000 viewers, that would indicate that both shows seemed to have their own individual audiences. There was some crossover, but Bellator actually slightly gained viewership when UFC started its main card. While UFC gained viewership after Bellator ended and presented its top two fights, it never reached nearly the level of what the combined MMA viewing audience was earlier in the night.

It should be noted that Spike is in approximately eight million more homes than FS1, which broadcasted the UFC show.

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