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UFC 213 prelims do lowest numbers for UFC pay-per-view since 2014

Aleksei Oleinik defeated Travis Browne in the main event of the UFC 213 prelims on FS1.
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

If it felt to you like International Fight Week had much less buzz than in past years, you weren't alone.

Television ratings for both the Friday night TUF 25 Finale and the UFC 213 prelims on Saturday were not only strongly down from last year — although that would have been expected — they also were the lowest numbers across the board for prime-time UFC shows in 2017.

Saturday night's UFC prelims, headlined by Travis Browne's loss to Aleksei Oleinik on FOX Sports 1, did 657,000 viewers — the lowest number for prelims before a pay-per-view show dating back to UFC 179. That was nearly three years ago, on Oct. 25, 2014, when the prelims before the Jose Aldo vs. Chad Mendes featherweight title bout did 536,000 viewers. The previous low for this year was 723,000 before UFC 210, the April 8 show headlined by Daniel Cormier's light heavyweight title defense against Anthony "Rumble" Johnson.

The UFC 213 prelim show peaked for the Oleinik vs. Brown fight at 732,000 viewers.

That number was down from 1,786,000 for last year's July show for UFC 200, although that had a ridiculously loaded prelims lineup including Kevin Gastelum vs. Johny Hendricks, Julianna Pena vs. Cat Zingano and T.J. Dillashaw vs. Raphael Assuncao.

Other causes of concern besides the ratings numbers themselves is the older skewing audience. Years ago, UFC used to have its biggest audience between 18 and 34, an age range unusual for television, and made it feel like a growth sport for the future. However, the pay-per-view prelims as well as The Ultimate Fighter finals on Friday night had stronger numbers among viewers over the age of 50 than in either 18-34 or 18-49 categories. The lower numbers in particular were stronger with women viewership, which was far below usual numbers these shows usually do.

Saturday night’s UFC 213 prelims only placed fourth among sports events that night, as a NASCAR race on NBC Sports Network did 2,710,000 viewers, baseball on FOX did 2,539,000 viewers, and Summer League basketball on ESPN did 1,106,000 viewers.

There is usually a correlation between the ratings for the prelims and pay-per-view numbers, but that correlation isn't perfect. Another strong indicator on how the pay-per-view did is Google searches, and UFC 213 had 500,000, which is similar to most UFC pay-per-views in 2017. But that number may have been artificially inflated because of questions in the afternoon regarding whether Amanda Nunes, who was supposed to defend her women's bantamweight title in the main event, would be fighting and questions regarding her eventually pulling out.

The UFC 213 pre-fight show on Saturday did 219,000 viewers and the post-fight show did 206,000 viewers. The previous post-fight show for the June 3 show headlined by Max Holloway's featherweight title win over Jose Aldo did 113,000 viewers, however, the month before, for the Stipe Miocic vs. Junior Dos Santos show, that number was 329,000.

The Friday night TUF 25 Finale, headlined by the potential fight-of-the-year with Justin Gaethje's debut, winning over Michael Johnson, did 724,000 viewers — also the lowest for a prime time live card event on FS1 this year. The show also featured the TUF 25 finals, where Jesse Taylor beat Dhiego Lima, which is notable since the ratings for the just-concluded season of The Ultimate Fighter were strong.

Part of it was the show taking place on Friday night, since most UFC live events are on Saturdays. It was the lowest figure since the July 13, 2016, show, on a Wednesday, headlined by John Lineker vs. Michael McDonald, did 609,000 viewers.

It was second among sports competition on Friday night as ESPN's Summer League Basketball did 879,000 viewers.

The number was down 33 percent from the similar show last year headlined by Joanna Jedrzejczyk defending her strawweight title against Claudia Gadelha. The Friday night prelims did 453,000 viewers, also the lowest of the year, and down 29 percent from the TUF finale prelims last year.

The pre-fight show on Friday did 130,000 viewers and the post-fight show did 230,000.

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