Bellator 231, headlined by former top UFC heavyweights Frank Mir (19-13) and Roy Nelson (23-18), drew 265,000 viewers on Paramount on Friday.
The number was the third-lowest of the year for Bellator, which on the surface would be disappointing. The show had more fighters with familiar names than most Bellator shows.
The card featured Phil Davis, a former top UFC light heavyweight and former Bellator champion; Ed Ruth, a three-time NCAA Division I wrestling champion; Jake Hager, a pro wrestling star known a Jack Swagger; and Bec Rawlings, coming off a run as the star of women’s Bare Knuckle boxing.
The main culprit was the World Series, which drew 12,220,000 viewers on FOX head-to-head. There was also NBA basketball on ESPN, including a Los Angeles Lakers-Utah Jazz game that did 1,783,000 viewers. That combination, along with a onetime move to FS1, also led WWE’s Smackdown to drop to 888,000 viewers, by far its lowest figure in the history of the show, and for a show that included Brock Lesnar, Cain Velasquez and 80s legends Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair.
The Bellator number beat Hager’s regular promotion, AEW, which saw TNT air a replay of the show that took place two days earlier and did 255,000 viewers.
The 40-year-old Mir won a three-round decision over the 43-year-old Nelson, ending Mir’s four-fight losing streak.
Bellator’s average for 2019 is 334,000 viewers, down 28 percent from the prior year, some of which is because the shows that would do the biggest numbers and strengthen the average are now DAZN exclusives.
Bellator’s Saturday show, headlined by Douglas Lima’s welterweight tournament final and title win over Rory MacDonald, was a DAZN exclusive.
UFC’s weekend show from Singapore headlined by Demian Maia’s win over Ben Askren was an ESPN+ show.
This coming weekend has two MMA events, both of which will be featured on ESPN2 at some point.
On Friday night at 8 p.m. ET, there will be a Professional Fight League show. On Saturday night, there will be UFC 244 prelims from 6:15 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET, which includes Johnny Walker vs. Corey Anderson at light heavyweight, and a Katlyn Chookagian vs. Jennifer Maia fight that could determine a women’s flyweight title contender for Valentina Shevchenko.