UFC 252 didn’t have the strongest preliminary card lineup, but the show still produced winning ratings for the promotion this past Saturday night.
The broadcast, which kicked off at 7 p.m. on ESPN, averaged 831,000 viewers over the course of the three-hour show. The card also received a .29 rating in the coveted 18-49 demographic to lead all programming on cable.
Overall, the UFC 252 prelims ended Saturday night as the No. 1 rated program across all of cable, according to the Nielsen Ratings System. The show peaked with 1.2 million viewers.
The next highest-rated live sports programming on Saturday night were the NHL playoffs between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Columbus Blue Jackets, which averaged 579,000 viewers on the NBC Sports Network.
While the UFC 252 ratings did end Saturday as the No. 1 show on cable, the card still failed to crack the 1 million viewers average that every pay-per-view card prior to the pandemic produced. UFC 246, which featured the return of Conor McGregor on the pay-per-view broadcast, is still at No. 1 overall for 2020 with 1.767 million viewers for the broadcast.
Of course it also must be noted that the UFC 252 prelims aired for three hours, which is a longer broadcast than many prelims that only go for two hours from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. The prelims were also simulcast on ESPN+, which is a subscription-based service and those ratings do not factor into the final ratings from Nielsen.
The UFC has continued to produce solid ratings during the coronavirus pandemic where many sports leagues have been shut down or just starting to come back within the past month. The next pay-per-view offering will come on Sept. 26 for UFC 253, which will be headlined by a long-awaited showdown between middleweight champion Israel Adesanya and top contender Paulo Costa.