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Stephens vs. Choi pulls biggest Fight Night numbers in almost two years

MMA: UFC Fight Night-St. Louis-Stephens vs Choi Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

Sunday’s UFC show, headlined by Jeremy Stephens winning over “The Korean Superboy” Doo Ho Choi, was the most watched Fight Night broadcast on FS 1 in nearly two years.

The company’s debut in St. Louis drew 1,285,000 viewers for the main card. It was the best Fight Night number since a Feb. 6, 2016, show headlined by Johny Hendricks vs. Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson did 1,317,000 viewers The show also drew 14,244 viewers for an average minute streaming on Fox Sports Go and FOX Now.

The audience peaked for the Stephens vs. Choi fight, which Stephens won via second-round TKO, doing 1,390,000 viewers.

The show beat the most-watched fight night of 2017 by 11 percent. Last year’s best number was 1,158,000 viewers, for a show headlined by another South Korean fighter, with the “Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung’s win over Dennis Bermudez.

What likely helped Sunday’s show is that a large number of sports fans were watching television, as the New Orleans Saints vs. Minnesota Vikings NFL playoff game on FOX drew 35,644,000 viewers. The game ended just as the UFC prelims on FS 1 were getting going.

There is a history of UFC pulling big numbers on a similar Sunday after NFL playoffs. The experiment began in 2015 with a Conor McGregor vs. Dennis Siver fight which drew 2,751,000 viewers, still the FS 1 record for any UFC event. In 2016, with T.J. Dillashaw defending the bantamweight title against Dominick Cruz, the event drew 2,280,000 viewers. Last year, with a B.J. Penn vs. Yair Rodriguez main event, the date did 1,090,000 viewers.

While viewership was up across the board, the show had far more women’s viewership than usual, particularly in the 12-34 age group.

The prelims, headlined by James Krause’s decision win over Alex White, did 1,079,000 viewers on television and a record-setting 21,982 viewers streaming. The number of television viewers was the third largest ever for Fight Night prelims.

Also notable is that the pre-fight show, going head-to-head with the NFL game, did only 147,000 viewers, yet grew to 1,079,000 when the fights started, a growth level almost unheard of from the pre-fight show to the fights.

The post-fight show did 342,000 viewers.

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