Saturday’s UFC prelims on ESPN2 drew 865,000 viewers, down from 910,000 for the UFC 244 prelims, even though that show went against tougher college football competition.
The difference speaks for the marquee value of the Jorge Masvidal vs. Nate Diaz fight trickling down to the live prelim coverage, which was the largest rating UFC has done to date on the station. Even with Saturday falling slightly below that number and not as tough sports competition, it’s still a very strong number for a show on ESPN2.
The prelims were on ESPN2 due to the Heisman Trophy presentation on ESPN which drew 2,542,000 viewers against the first hour of the UFC show. The second hour on ESPN was the start of the Top Rank Boxing show, headlined by the Terrence Crawford battle with Egidijus “Mean Machine” Kavaliauskas. That show averaged 1,350,000 viewers over nearly three hours.
One thing clear is that the crossover of UFC fans who were interested in the Heisman Trophy is far larger than expected. Once the trophy show ended, the prelims audience rose by 33 percent for the final two fights, Irene Aldana vs. Ketlen Vieira, a fight with major women’s bantamweight significance, and Mike Perry, a popular slugger, facing rising star Geoff Neal.
Perry vs. Neal peaked at 1.2 million viewers.
But the number, very strong for the station, is more about the value of people watching UFC that night for the three title fights on the pay-per-view.
UFC 245 did an estimated 1.2 million Google searches, making it the single most searched topic in the U.S. on Saturday. That was down from the unusually large 2.1 million searches for the Masvidal vs. Diaz fight.
It was the largest number of viewers for a show on ESPN2 since Nov. 23.
The prelims beat everything on cable in the 18-49 demo except what was on ESPN, a Hallmark movie and Live PD on A&E.