Early indications are that Saturday night’s pay-per-view prelims on ESPN will be among the most-watched in history.
Between ESPN and ESPN Deportes, the show averaged a 1.0 rating in the overnight ratings of the major metered markets. Since UFC moved off Spike in 2012, the highest metered market rating for pay-per-view prelims was a 1.1 for UFC 205, the November 12, 2016, show from Madison Square Garden. That loaded prelim show featured both Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Michael Johnson and Frankie Edgar vs. Jeremy Stephens, leading up to one of the deepest UFC main shows in history with three title fights, headlined by Eddie Alvarez vs. Conor McGregor. A few other pay-per-view prelims on FS 1, usually prior to the biggest events in company history, also did 1.0 ratings on the overnights.
The biggest reason for the high number was not high interest in the pay-per-view as much as the great lead-in from the Duke vs. Virginia college basketball game. The lead-in being the key was shown because the first match on the prelims, Teruto Ishihara vs. Kyung Ho Kang, did a 1.7 rating, the biggest of the show. Usually prelim ratings will peak for the final fight. The prelims Saturday had no major stars and were headlined by Devonte Smith’s first round stoppage of Dong Hyun Ma.
The prelims went against the NBA on ABC and the debut of the new football league, the AAF, on CBS.
Final ratings will be available on Tuesday.
UFC 234 was the single most searched item on Google on Saturday with more than 1 million searches. As a general rule, that would equate to 250,000 to 450,000 pay-per-view buys but in this case that metric could be misleading. Many of the searches probably had to do with looking up information regarding the card change due to headliner and middleweight champion Robert Whittaker having emergency surgery for a hernia and bowel issues and the title match being pulled from the show.