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Ratings Report: UFC 261 prelims deliver No. 1 rating for cable on Saturday night, PFL returns with average numbers

UFC 261: Usman v Masvidal 2 Photo by Alex Menendez/Getty Images

When it’s all said and done, UFC 261 will likely go down as one of the biggest cards of the year for the promotion.

On top of reportedly doing 700,000-plus buys on pay-per-view, the UFC 261 prelims also delivered as the No. 1-rated program across all of cable this past Saturday night.

According to the Nielsen Ratings System, the UFC 261 prelims, which aired on ESPN starting at 8 p.m. ET ended up with 951,000 viewers on average with a .36 rating in the coveted 18-49 year old demographic, which was tops for all programming on Saturday.

The UFC event topped a pair of NBA games as well as Top Rank Boxing, which followed the prelims at 10 p.m. ET with that card earning 733,000 viewers on average. The prelims were headlined by Randy Brown pulling of a rare one-arm rear-naked choke to finish Alex Oliveira in the featured bout.

The early prelims, which aired at 6 p.m. ET on ESPN 2, also ended up at No. 5 overall in Saturday cable ratings with 616,000 viewers on average.

All together, the UFC 261 event will be seen as a huge success for the promotion when combining the cable ratings for the prelims along with the pay-per-view buys through ESPN+.

Overall, the UFC has enjoyed a very good year so far when it comes to pay-per-view prelims with UFC 257 and UFC 259 both delivering more than 1 million viewers on average for a broadcast and now UFC 261 ending up as the No. 1 rated program on cable on Saturday night.

This past Friday saw the return of the PFL after the organization did not promote any cards during 2020 due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Despite the long absence, the PFL ultimately delivered mediocre numbers for the promotion with 156,000 viewers on average across the broadcast that aired on ESPN2 starting at 9 p.m. ET on Friday. Now Fridays are typically a bad night for ratings on television in general but the PFL saw similar returns to these averages when promoting cards on Thursday nights during the previous season in 2019.

The next PFL card will take place on Thursday night with the broadcast on ESPN2 while the next UFC pay-per-view will go down on May 15 on ESPN.