UFC On FOX Scores Big, Most-Watched UFC Event Ever

November 13, 2011

UFC’s highly anticipated network debut took place Saturday night, as challenger Junior Dos Santos defeated Cain Velasquez to become the new UFC Heavyweight Champion of the world.  The fight only took 64 seconds, but it was enough to become the most-watched UFC event ever.

The full FOX press release is below.

History was made last night as the UFC made its broadcast television debut on FOX, and a record audience tuned in as the challenger, Junior dos Santos defeated defending champion Cain Velasquez in a first round knock out to claim the coveted heavyweight crown.  It was the most-watched UFC event ever and the most-watched professional fight of any kind in eight years, according to fast national ratings made available by Nielsen Media Research.

 The hour-long UFC on FOX premiere scored a 3.1/5 household rating/share, with 5.7 million viewers making it the most-watched UFC event ever and the most-watched professional fight of any kind on any network since 2003 when 7.0 million tuned in to watch Lewis-Klitschko on HBO.  Velasquez-dos Santo is also the highest-rated and most-watched professional fight of any kind on a broadcast network for OSCAR DE LA HOYA’S FIGHT NIGHT on FOX. (4.3/6, 5.9 million viewers) in 1998.

FOX Research projects that last night’s UFC on FOX premiere broadcast to win the 9:00-10:00 PM time period across key demos including Adults 18-34 (3.2), Adults 18-49 (3.0); Men 18-34 (4.3) and Men 18-49 (4.0). Competitive fast national ratings for other networks are currently unavailable.

The UFC on FOX debuted strong opposite significant college football competition last night.  ABC’s primetime Oregon-Stanford broadcast averaged a 6.0/11, while NBC’s Maryland-Notre Dame primetime broadcast averaged a 1.4/3 and ESPN averaged a 1.5/3 in prime for Alabama-Mississippi State (college football ratings are overnights – overnight for UFC on FOX event was 3.5/6).  The three games combined to total 8.9/17 in primetime.  Interestingly, among the Men 18-34 demographic, the UFC on FOX premiere posted a 4.3, strong enough to out-rate every college football telecast this season on any network with the exception of last week’s No. 1 vs. No. 2 LSU-Alabama match-up (through 11/5).

The most recent mixed martial arts programs on broadcast television were a series of EliteXC events on CBS in 2008.  The premiere of UFC on FOX attracted an average audience +16% higher than the premiere of EliteXC on CBS (5/31/08), their most-watched EliteXC event (5.7 vs. 4.9 million viewers).  UFC on FOX also out-performed the EliteXC show in household rating (3.1 vs. 3.0) and across key male demos: Men 18-34 +34% (4.3 vs. 3.2); Men 18-49 +33% (4.0 vs. 3.0); and Men 25-54 +23% (3.8 vs. 3.1).

Las Vegas led all local markets with a 5.3/9, followed by Dallas (5.1/10), Phoenix (5.1/9), San Antonio (5.1/8), Tulsa (4.9/8), San Diego (4.8/9), Greensboro (4.6/6), New Orleans (4.5/6) and Los Angeles (4.3/8).

21 Responses to “UFC On FOX Scores Big, Most-Watched UFC Event Ever”

  1. mmaguru on November 13th, 2011 3:41 PM

    Most are criticizing the number as dismal. I believe your post is from the Fox release.
    I for one expected a number in that neighborhood. The casual fans did not know either fighter. They should have had someone like Brock fight. I think the ratings should be considered average at best. Elite XC was able to reach those types of numbers with Kimbo, so we will have to see what UFC can do with a big head liner in their next FOX outing.

  2. Jose Mendoza on November 13th, 2011 6:25 PM


    Yes, that is the full FOX press release above (I specified that now). We will have our Payout Perspective on everything in the next couple of days, and you can bet we will be discussing everything 🙂

  3. Jack Frost on November 13th, 2011 7:00 PM


    “Interestingly, among the Men 18-34 demographic, the UFC on FOX premiere posted a 4.3, strong enough to out-rate every college football telecast this season on any network with the exception of last week’s No. 1 vs. No. 2 LSU-Alabama match-up (through 11/5).”

    Yup, that’s dismal alright. Fool.

  4. mmaguru on November 13th, 2011 7:29 PM

    Jack Frost, no need to get “rowdy”. I don’t view the numbers as dismal, that is what the mma press is projecting. I think they are average, where I would expect them to be with the brand of fighters that the UFC used. Could they have done better? Sure. Will they next time? Time will tell. Also, we still don’t know the peak number. It could be as high as 7 million as most viewers were probably like me and just tuned out until the HW fight was on. So, in conclusion, don’t get your panties or underwear in a knot.

  5. mmaguru on November 13th, 2011 7:31 PM

    Jose, gate numbers are in and they are about half of their last show in Honda Center. 14K attendance, 1.1 million gate. Looks like at least 7K comps if not more. We need to start discussing seriously the decline in MMA business around here.

  6. BrainSmasher on November 13th, 2011 10:07 PM

    It is a shame the fight didnt go longer. The ratings really climb during the fight due to word of mouth. 2-3 rounds would have given the 5.7 million time to tell friends and also time for people to stumble on it from other sports that night.

    Fox really dropped the ball not using the Guida/Bendo fight is a lead in. That would have provided enough fighting and excitement to counter the anticlimactic title fight. The UFC and FOX banked big time on a war between the fighters. A second fight would hedge their bets in case the fight was a bore fest. It would give a second chance to show the new fans how exciting a typical UFC fight is like. I dont think the fight was a disaster but i feel it was a neutral event. Didnt hurt but didnt help much. It did get their names out there which is big. The let fans know the winner got Brock vs Reem. Giving the Reem fight attention as well as their fight with Santos.

  7. Jose Mendoza on November 13th, 2011 10:12 PM


    There actually is a reason why the gate was $1.1M and sold 14K. The tickets were priced cheap so the presentation of the event on FOX would look good and the card didn’t have any real draws, so they priced cheap and gave a ton of comps away.

  8. BrainSmasher on November 13th, 2011 10:13 PM

    Also Elite XC event was in like March or April. There is little sports competition that time of year. The UFC went up against huge college Football ratings and also the undercard of the Pacman PPV. I doubt there were many who bought the PPV and didnt watch the under card fights they paid for just to watch 59 minutes of talking and 1 minute of fighting on FOX.

  9. Jose Mendoza on November 13th, 2011 10:22 PM


    I agree with some of the points you made. This event could have done so much more by showing the Henderson vs Guida fight, except, we got 1 minute of actual MMA fighting (which is the product we are selling) and 59 minutes of filler. Considering all of that, amazing the ratings were good as they were.

  10. BrainSmasher on November 13th, 2011 10:54 PM

    I agree 100%. I think the numbers were great considering. Not the 10 million i expect(expect a 3-5 round fight).

    People also need to realize the Elite XC event was a couple hours long and it used the entire card and main event to get a great peak which made the average numbers respectable. They peaked at 6.5 million with a 4.3 million average. With the anticipation of this event and the short fight i doubt the peak was very high at all. Curtainly not a +30% increase over the average like Elite received. I would be surprised if the peak was even 7 million. I believe a 3 rounder would have got the peak to maybe 9 million putting the average closer to 7 million.

    I hope the UFC put on similar level of main event on their FOX shows next year. It would interesting to see the ratings with a decent amount of fights with a decent drawing main event. JDS until now never was a big draw. Cain i think would have been if didnt sit out so long after his big win. He faded and didnt ride the hispanic fan base that was created after he won the belt.. Given that i think the UFC could easily be doing 10 million events at times on Fox next year.

  11. BrainSmasher on November 13th, 2011 11:00 PM

    Could someone on the payout staff include trending twitter and google results for this event. That would be very interesting to see with so many viewers on a new network. Would be a great addition to the Payout Perspective.

  12. John S. on November 13th, 2011 11:12 PM

    The better comparison would be comparing last hour of the the Elite XC card and the FOX broadcast or a comparison of the quarter-hour ratings.

    The only reason these numbers look bad is because of the unrealistic expectations that many had. Thanks to that, them not blowing Kimbo and Fedor’s numbers out of the water it looks abysmal (anyone remember how a shill on BE predicted the first UFC card would do 10-15 million viewers?) is looked as a failure.

    I think the only reason they have to be disappointed is because in hindsight it could have done much more for them if they had put Bendo/Guida on. For years the mantra has been that what differentiates MMA from boxing is that in MMA you get a whole card while in boxing it’s one fight. How could they have forgotten that?

    Oh, that and Dana’s terrible post-fight comments. He forgot his best promoter hat back at the hotel that’s for sure.

  13. Jose Mendoza on November 14th, 2011 12:31 AM


    I plan on doing so, but thanks to the nature of 90% of the fights happening on FB instead of FOX, Twitter trends were low. It will all definitely be in the Payout Perspective.


    Agree with you there. Initially, I heard they wanted to do 6-8M, but I think once reality started to set in, 5-6 is what they were aiming for and got it. Agreed with post-fight “analysis”. That wasn’t a very good look there.

  14. BrainSmasher on November 14th, 2011 12:50 AM

    John S.

    How in the world would that be a fair comparison? Elite XC had the benifit of 2 hours of word of mouth that the UFC did not. That wouldnt be any more fair than putting the first UFC fight on FOX up against the first Elite XC fight on CBS. The UFC would win. It would be like 7 million to 3 million. Without that second hour Elite XC rating would be horrible.

  15. Mossman on November 14th, 2011 7:39 AM

    This was pretty much worse case scenario for the UFC and Dana knew it hence acting like a pissed off teenager at the post fight desk. The interview he did two days prior said it all…”his biggest nightmare is a 30 second fight”. Well… it doubled that, but didn’t do much to help grow the sport.

    Frankly it was Fox’s fault as it was their call to only show one fight. They were being over cautious and didn’t want to hit the ground running with a full card and hours of fight content… They wanted it more spectacle than spectacular action… Chalk it up to the Fox sports novice ability on MMA and not really understanding the sport or producing contact sports. I agree a hundred times over the Hendo/Guida battle would have done more in that time slot for the sport then the product we got.

    Interesting to note…. as was discussed prior to the event… that there was no new sponsors. The casio phone was cool, running on Fox airtime… but the UFC controlled inventory showed they were either bonusing existing partners or up-sold the regular suspects to fill their mat/in-arena/TV broadcast elements. Kind of sad they couldn’t use the “Largest broadcast event ever” to find at least 1 new advertiser or blue chip sponsor. BIG FAIL, imo.

  16. Michael on November 14th, 2011 10:01 AM

    About showing only the one fight:
    When you find out that both fighters went into (“the most important fight in ….blabla”) injured -> doesn’t that almost make the UFC look irresponsible for not planning some backup for when the main event wouldn’t live up??
    (like simply show Mir_Carwin afterwards, the new fans wouldn’t have noticed 😀 😀 just kidding)

  17. assassin on November 14th, 2011 12:52 PM

    People need to settle down a little. This fight/broadcast had nothing to do with anyone who is a fan or has ever been on an MMA website. Fox had a few goals:
    1. Treat this as a legitimate sport so to build the brand for people to tune in for their 4x yr 90 minute shows. That is why they used Fox sports people and the Fox sports theme.
    2. Make this an event. They way they talked they were placing MMA or par with boxing, and many people will learn to see that it is.
    3. Help to draw fans across their multiple platforms. Card was on the foxsports internet (which Im sure no one would watch otherwise), Fox Desportes showed 4 fights, they had truly funny 2 hour red carpet pre-show and 1 hour post fight on Fuel (among the pre-show were Mandy Moore and Michael Strahan and the post show had a surfer guy and the drummer from Bkink 182), and will have TUF on FX. That is a lot of cross promoting.
    4. The more people keep hearing about UFC/MMA the more likely they will start tuning in. The mentioned the fight and showed the highlight on the NFL today pre-game show on Sunday. It will be interesting to see if they do that for the upcoming PPV cards as well.

  18. terrence from southeast on November 14th, 2011 4:40 PM

    I thought the event was presented great with the buildup on Fuel TV and adding alittle FOX flavor to the Live show.

  19. Bill Jennings on November 14th, 2011 6:46 PM

    mmaguru must be confused. Beating every College football game in the season save for 1 in the coveted 18-34 demo is average at best?

    It was also the #1 show in it’s time slot in all other key demos. How is that average?

  20. Assassin on November 15th, 2011 11:06 AM

    The Fox broadcast listed the Heavyweight rankings 1-5. Does anyone know the source they were using? The is no ranking on Fox Sports website. There was no source identified on the broadcast. Dana and UFC have historically not ranked the fighters.

    Again, if you are attempting to “legitimize” the sport to casual fans, then ranking the players would be a good idea as this is done for individual events (tennis, golf, boxing, etc). I haven’t heard or seen this issue discussed.


  21. CodeMaster on November 16th, 2011 4:42 PM

    I think Dana and Fox were hoping for a higher number, but 5.7 million is pretty good for only one fight between two fighters casual fans don’t know.

    I am not really certain what that 5.7 million means? Does it count Canada and Mexico? Does it count the UK and Europe? Does it count Facebook and Fox Sports?

    This was a ‘test the waters’ event for the UFC and Fox, and I am certain they will gradually grow the numbers over time. As a fan, there was too much analysis and too many commercials and not enough fighting.

    The UFC model has succeeded because they offer a night of fights, some of which will be excellent. MMA is so uncertain, it is tough to count on a single fight carrying the card. The Bendo vs. Guida fight was amazing and had the entire crowd standing and cheering for most of it.

    I consider it a foolish business decision to not show that fight. Both fghters were known before their fight for high energy games–and they delivered in a wild 3 round melee.

    Hardcore MMA fans can be fickle, demanding prima donnas–it shows when they whine about 5.7 million viewers watching the first UFC event on Fox. Fox and the UFC just got started–and it was a good beginning.

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