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Ratings report: Prelims for UFC 185 top 1 million viewers

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Even though they moved to a new network, the prelims for UFC 185 on Saturday topped 1 million viewers.

The show, moved to FX due to college basketball coverage on Fox Sports 1, drew 1,003,000 viewers on average between 8-10 p.m. E.T. It marks the fourth straight prelims broadcast to crack the seven figure mark. But it's somewhat misleading to compare, because FX is a different, and more highly rated channel than FS 1.

The last time UFC prelims aired on FX, which was June 14, for UFC 174, the show did 784,000 viewers. That was slightly below the FS 1 average, but it was also the night of a pay-per-view headlined by Demetrious Johnson vs. Ali Bagautinov, which is believed to have been the least purchased UFC pay-per-view since 2006. That number beat many prelims on FS 1 of pay-per-view shows with a far higher level of interest, so even though it's not the usual station, prelims on FX likely have a significant advantage when it comes to drawing viewers.

The show was up even more dramatically from UFC 174 in the key 18-49 demo, with a 36 percent increase, going from 390,000 to 532,000.

It was a success for FX, as the station averaged 820,000 viewers in prime time for the week, based on the prior week's (March 2 to March 8) total viewership, and Saturday is the worst night for television viewing.

The ratings peaked with 1,147,000 viewers for the Sam Stout vs. Ross Pearson final match before the pay-per-view started.

Airing on a stronger station didn't offset that there was less interest in Saturday night's show than any UFC pay-per-view event this year. But the show handily beat the UFC 181 numbers on FS 1, the last pay-per-view of 2014. That show did 840,000 viewers, even though that was a stronger pay-per-view card, with Johny Hendricks vs. Robbie Lawler for the welterweight title and Anthony Pettis vs. Gilbert Melendez for the lightweight title. The prelims that night were headlined by Urijah Faber vs. Francisco Rivera, a match with far more star power than any of the prelims offered on Saturday.

Saturday had Pettis losing his title to Rafael dos Anjos, who didn't come in with nearly the name recognition as Melendez, It had a second title match, Joanna Jedrzejczyk's win over Carla Esparza for the women's strawweight title, which was the first time that new championship had been defended on pay-per-view. 

On Friday night, Spike's debut of Premier Boxing Championships did 869,000 viewers, peaking at 1 million for the Andre Berto win over Josesito Lopez. The number was almost identical to what Bellator had done two weeks earlier with its biggest event so far this year, the British Invasion show headlined by Liam McGeary's light heavyweight title win over Emanuel Newton. That show did 872,000 viewers.

There is usually an advantage with a debut show, because generally the first episode gets more publicity and attention.

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