A combination of the UFC 228 prelims being moved to unfamiliar territory on FX, college football competition, along with no major interest in the show, led to the lowest numbers in one year.
It was the lowest number since the prelims before UFC 215, held on Sept. 9, 2017. That night saw a series of circumstances that hurt the number, notably the Walker Cup golf tournament going long and delaying the start of the FS 1 show by one hour, leading the second hour to only do 418,000 viewers, before the Amanda Nunes vs. Valentina Shevchenko headlined show, which ended up being among the lowest pay-per-view number in modern company history with about 100,000 buys.
Thus far in 2018, prelims held on FS 1 have averaged 789,000 viewers while those on FX have averaged 617,000 viewers.
While college football certainly played a part in what was, aside from UFC 215, the lowest number for pay-per-view prelims since the start of 2017. In the end, the overriding factor is product interest.
The prelim main event of Suarez vs. Esparza matched up two highly ranked strawweights with Suarez appearing to be not far from a potential title fight, and also had longtime highly ranked bantamweight Aljamin Sterling.
But the number likely points more toward a lack of interest in the overall show, as the biggest factor in prelim ratings is the pay-per-view main event.
Tyron Woodley’s win over Darren Till to retain the welterweight title had 500,000 searches on Google. Google searches are a strong indicator of how the pay-per-view does, and this would indicate a low number, but not a terrible number, and about the level that should have been expected. Of those searches, at least 200,000 related to Woodley, meaning that to the public, Woodley was the only major draw, and meaning interest in Till, despite his undefeated record coming in and being a slight favorite in the final odds, wasn’t significant.
The main card was hurt when the second title fight, Nicco Montano vs. Valentina Shevchenko for the women’s flyweight title fell through when Montano was hospitalized due to weight-cutting issues.
The major competition was three college football games. Clemson vs. Texas A&M in a close game on ESPN did 4,486,000 viewers. Penn State over Pitt on ABC did 3,286,000 viewers. Stanford over UFC on FOX did 2,290,000 viewers.
The pre-fight show on FX did 271,000 viewers. The post-fight show on FS 1 did 64,000 viewers, which is unusually low, again indicating a low interest level even though the show featured some unique and spectacular finishes.