The age-old question of what is more appealing, a show loaded up with big names and interesting fights, or a show with a blockbuster main event had its latest answer this past weekend.
UFC 225 was the deepest show of the year when it came to main talent, all the way down to the Fight Pass bouts. The main event, what was to be a middleweight title fight with Robert Whittaker vs. Yoel Romero, pitted two men who were clearly the tops in their division and fought evenly the last time they faced each other. But neither has established themselves as a draw.
Hardcore fans will almost always prefer the deeper all-around show, but numbers almost always ebb and flow based on how interesting the main events are to the casual fan. Even if it is only the main event, the trickle-down is that they will be more likely to watch the entire night.
The first key numbers, the TV ratings for the prelims, were not strong, averaging 667,000 viewers. It was the second lowest total so far this year, beating only UFC 224, which did 574,000. But last month’s show was also on FX, an unfamiliar channel, instead of FS 1. In 2017, only three of the 12 shows fell below that number.
The show did 8,998 viewers streaming for an average minute on FSGO and FOX Now.
That’s with stronger than usual prelims, notably a heavyweight bout with contenders Alistair Overeem vs. Curtis Blaydes, and a strawweight bout with Claudia Gadelha vs. Carla Esparza. Overeem vs. Blaydes did the peak number at 848,000 viewers.
Last year’s June show, with a Jose Aldo vs. Max Holloway main event, did 732,000 for the prelims.
Still, FS1 was the leading sports network on cable during those two hours.
The show did its strongest numbers among males 25-34, although numbers were consistent across the board from the age of 18 up. Most sports do their strongest numbers over the age of 40. The show did 76.0 percent of the viewers in the 18-49 demo being male.
Aside from Major League Baseball on FOX, that did 2,757,000 viewers, there wasn’t strong national sports competition to explain the lower than usual number.
The prefight show on FS2 did 79,000 viewers. The postfight show on FS1 did 86,000 viewers, which is lower than usual. It also didn’t start until 1:27 a.m. ET due to both title fights going to five-round decisions.