Bellator scored a mild win in the weekend's ratings battle, as its tentpole event from St. Louis on Friday drew slightly more viewers than UFC's event the next night from Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Bellator averaged 814,000 viewers for a show that featured two championship fights and a number of surprise announcements.
UFC, going against tougher sports competition, but on a more familiar Saturday night, did 757,000 viewers for its main card headlined by the third meeting between Vitor Belfort and Dan Henderson. Even though Belfort and Henderson are well known names with nearly two decades of star power in the sport, for whatever reason, the match-up has not drawn well. The previous fight between the two, on November 9, 2013, also from Brazil, did 722,000 viewers.
There are several points regarding direct comparisons between Bellator and UFC that should be noted. The biggest is that Spike, which airs Bellator, is in about eight million more homes than FOX Sports 1, which airs UFC. If you factor that in, the numbers of the two shows would be close to identical, with UFC actually having a slight edge. UFC was also on Saturday, a more familiar night for sports, but also one with far more competition.
UFC went against a plethora of college football games, including the Louisiana State vs. Alabama game on CBS that did 10,680,000 viewers, as well as games on ABC, FOX, ESPN and ESPN 2, plus the Brandon Rios vs. Thomas Bradley boxing match on HBO, which peaked for the main event with 910,000 viewers.
Bellator went against NBA games on ESPN and College Football on ESPN 2, and with the lesser competition, was the third most-watched sports event of the night.
Bellator also had a theoretical edge in the sense its two main events both went five rounds, giving them more time to build an audience. UFC's main event was over in two minutes. However, the Bellator peak rating, with 1,048,000 viewers, came early, in the Bobby Lashley vs. James Thompson fight that lasted less than one minute. With the exception of people like Ken Shamrock, Tito Ortiz and Kimbo Slice, Lashley, with his pro wrestling fan base, has been consistently Bellator's biggest ratings draw. Lashley's fight this past weekend outdrew Ortiz's championship challenge to Liam McGeary last month.
The UFC prelims, headline by Gleison Tibau's win over Abel Trujillo, and also featuring a quick loss by Clay Guida, did 609,000 viewers.
The pre-game show on FS 1 did 217,000 viewers and the post-fight coverage did 215,000 viewers.
Throwing out the Conor McGregor show in January, UFC has averaged 871,000 viewers for prime time Fight Night shows in 2015. Saturday's show was the third lowest number so far this year.
Bellator slightly tops UFC in total viewers over the weekend
While there are a number of extenuating circumstances, Bellator's Friday night show from St. Louis, with two title bouts, drew 814,000 viewers; while UFC's Saturday night main card from Sao Paulo, Brazil, paced by Vitor Belfort vs. Dan Henderson, did 757,000 viewers.