At one point the idea of Fedor Emelianenko fighting Rampage Jackson on free television would have been expected to do huge ratings, probably upwards of 1.5 million viewers even a few years ago.
But, likely due to the monster numbers of the Clemson vs. Ohio State college football championship semifinals, a live show from the historic Saitama Super Arena on Saturday night, that also featured stars like Michael Chandler and Michael “Venom” Page, only averaged 311,000 viewers.
The football game did 20,393,000 viewers head-to-head.
Even though the fight itself was sad, given Jackson coming in at 265 pounds and barely touching Emelianenko before being put down in the first round, they are still two major names who both have long histories of drawing strong television ratings. There was also a theme to the main event, with two stars of the Pride golden era, who had never faced previously, fighting in the arena where so many of Pride’s legendary fights took place.
There was strong nostalgia, as well as a push of it being Emelianenko’s retirement tour, but once the numbers came in for Jackson’s weigh-in, it was hard to believe he took training that seriously.
Showtime had boxing, head-to-head headlined by Gervontis Davis’ 12th-round win over Yuriokis Gamboa on Saturday, broken down by fights, with the television opener doing 318,000 viewers and the main event averaging 577,000 viewers.
Paramount is also available in more homes than Showtime.
The football competition was the most fierce Bellator has faced all year, and the boxing fight was reasonably big as well. But the interest in the fight was not there with the general public, as it didn’t crack the top 20 in Google searches like fights with Emelianenko and Jackson would have routinely done during their careers, even including their most recent bouts..
The number was lower than two of Bellator’s recent shows without anywhere near the level of star power, let alone the uniqueness of a live year-end show from Japan.
Bellator 233, headlined by John Salter vs. Costello van Steenis did 314,000 viewers on Nov. 8 from Thackerville, Okla. A show on a one-day tape delay from Tel Aviv, Israel that aired on Nov. 5, headlined by Linton Vassell’s win over Sergei Kharitonov, did 318,000 viewers.
A Dec. 20 Combate Americas show from Univision featuring a multi-country Copa Combate tournament did 373,000 viewers with a Friday night at midnight start time. The same show broadcast live in Mexico did 1.5 million viewers.