If ever there was a mixed message, the ratings for Saturday's UFC show were it.
The Fight Night from Rio de Janeiro, headlined by Demian Maia's five-round decision win over Ryan LaFlare, drew 617,000 viewers, well short of every UFC televised prime time show so far this year, and among the lowest numbers for such a show in since FS 1 became UFC's main cable destination point. The show finishing well below the usual average wasn't much of a surprise, given the lack of star power on the show.
Even though LaFlare came into the fight undefeated, he had never been in a featured fight previously nor had he made an impact to the average viewer. Maia, a veteran, has been a top contender for years, even got a middleweight title shot at Anderson Silva, and has some of the best ground skills in the sport. But he never achieved significant popularity in the U.S.
The show peaked at 767,000 viewers for the early rounds of the main event, so the audience did decline as the fought wore on, but was at a lower than usual level all night.
The flip side is that the prelims on FS 2 did 280,000 viewers, making it the third-most watched show in the history of the station. Even when UFC ran significant live shows on FS 2 and its predecessor, Fuel, such a number for a main card with name fighters would have been considered excellent given the limited reach of the station.
FS 2 is now in significantly more homes than it was as Fuel, when UFC was featured more regularly on the station, up from about 36 million to more than 45 million, so overall viewership numbers should be up. But even figuring that, the FS 2 numbers still would have been larger than most main cards previously on the station.
FS 1 is currently in 84.8 million homes.