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Bellator tops UFC in weekend ratings by 96,000 viewers

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Paul Daley
Paul Daley
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Bellator got a weekend ratings victory over UFC, but neither side did blow-away numbers this past weekend.

Saturday's Bellator show from San Jose, Calif., a loaded show featuring former UFC stars Benson Henderson, Roy Nelson and Lorenz Larkin, averaged 598,000 viewers on Spike TV. The night before, a UFC event from Saitama, Japan, with far weaker star power, headlined by Ovince Saint Preux vs. Yushin Okami, averaged 502,000 viewers, airing on FXX instead of the usual FS 1.

The Bellator show was on Saturday night, a more traditional night for big MMA events, but was also going against a plethora of college football games, on FOX, ABC, FS 1, ESPN and ESPN 2, a NASCAR race on NBC Sports Network as well as a replay of the Canelo Alvarez vs. Gennady Golovkin fight on HBO. The boxing replay did 726,000 viewers, while the live Luke Campbell vs. Jorge Linares fight on HBO did 687,000 viewers. Aside from a late-night Hawaii-Wyoming football game on ESPN 2, Bellator did not beat any of the football games or NASCAR.

Bellator did have the most-watched fight of the night, as the Henderson vs. Patricky "Pitbull" Freire main event averaged 754,000 viewers and peaked at 847,000 viewers. The previous Bellator show, on Aug. 25, did 481,000 viewers, but Saturday's show was of significantly higher profile. The last major Bellator event on Spike, the prelims before the June 24 show in Madison Square Garden, did 758,000 viewers.

The Saitama show was put on FXX because FS 1 aired a college football game on Friday night with Utah vs. Arizona, that did 581,000 viewers. Most likely, had the UFC show aired on the more familiar FS 1, it would have beaten the football number. The least-watched live prime time UFC Fight Night on FS 1 so far this year did 724,000 viewers. But the show was likely also hurt by being on Friday night, rather than the traditional Saturday.

Six nights earlier, the UFC show from Pittsburgh with Luke Rockhold vs. David Branch averaged 872,000 for the main card and 653,000 for the prelims, as well as 8,357 viewers streaming on Fox Sports Go.

The UFC main card did 502,000 on FXX and another average of 3,614 for the show on the streaming Fox Sports Go. The peak rating was for the Teruto Ishihara vs. Rolando Dy fight, which did 622,000 viewers, so the largest audience didn't stick with the show past 11 p.m. to see names like Gokhan Saki, Takanori Gomi, Saint Preux and one of the company's best women's fights with Claudia Gadelha vs. Jessica Andrade.

The UFC prelims from 8-10 p.m., with Keita Nakamura vs. Alex Morono as the featured bout, averaged 416,000 viewers on FXX and 3,992 viewers streaming. It was also the lowest prime time number for UFC prelims so far this year.

The prefight show did 139,000 viewers and postfight show 158,000.