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UFC 183 looks to be major business success

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting
UFC 183 in many ways will go down as a fiasco. Both main eventers failed their drug tests, two fighters missed weight, and a third collapsed the day of the show while warming up, and being hospitalized, forcing the fight to be canceled.

The entire week was one of one injury after another which included three different main events of future shows falling through.

But from a business standpoint, it was the company's fourth straight major success in one of the company's best months in history.

UFC 183, a show with little from a marquee standpoint past the Anderson Silva vs. Nick Diaz main event, ended up being the 12th-largest gate in company history at $4.5 million. It also did strong television ratings for shoulder programming with nearly two million viewers tuned in for the Miesha Tate vs. Sara McMann fight.

The fight delivered 1,992,000 viewers, the largest number for a prelim fight before a pay-per-view on Fox Sports 1. In the arena, based on crowd reactions and anticipation, it appeared Tate vs. McMann was the second biggest fight on the show and Tate was the show's third-biggest star. Fan interest indicated the bout was more suited for the semifinal on pay-per-view position than being a television prelim fight, even when positioned as a TV main event.

The two-hour average of 1,546,000 viewers for the prelims finished just shy of the FS 1 record of 1,554,000 set for the prelims of UFC 168. It would have been the fourth-most watched UFC event since moving to the station.

It blew away the UFC 182 total of 1,039,000 viewers of the prelims, which had been the second-highest pay-per-view prelim show on the station.

From an advertiser standpoint, the 925,000 viewers between the ages of 18 and 49, 60 percent of the total audience, is extremely strong considering the majority of television viewers on a Saturday night are above the age of 50.

The post-fight coverage at 1 a.m., after the conclusion of the pay-per-view did 318,000 viewers, also the second largest in history, trailing the 459,000 viewers after UFC 182.

While prelim ratings don't always correlate with pay-per-view buys, more often than not a strong audience for the prelims is going to translate into a similar level pay-per-view. The earliest indications are that UFC 183 will fall short of UFC 182, with the Jon Jones vs. Daniel Cormier light heavyweight title fight, but will finish well ahead of every other show since UFC 168, likely falling between 600,000 and 700,000 buys. That would be one of the highest totals in company history for a show that didn't include a championship match. With two shows in the month, it will likely wind up as the third-most pay-per-views buys in a calender month for the UFC, trailing May and July 2010.

For the month of January, the prelims before the main cards on average were nearly double from one year earlier, from 515,000 in 2014 to 977,000 this year. The pre-flight shows have nearly tripled their audience, from an average of 107,000 viewers in January 2014 to 310,000 viewers this month. Similarly, UFC Tonight numbers for the month averaged 150,000 viewers per episode, nearly tripling the 54,000 average in January 2014.

The show was an even bigger ratings success in Brazil. Airing on Globo, the country's largest network, in a 4 a.m. time slot, the show did nearly four million home watching which was a 20 rating in Brasilia, an 18 rating in Sao Paulo and a 16 rating in Rio de Janeiro. In all, 60 percent of televisions in use during that time slot were watching the taped delayed replay of Silva vs. Diaz.