Full Contact Fighter’s “The Daily Takedown:” Olympics Trounce UFC on FOX Ratings; Can UFC and FOX Rebound?
By Joshua Molina
Many people believe UFC boss Dana White is a marketing genius, and that may be true, but his booking decisions this year have many people puzzled.
UFC on Fox 4 on Saturday night went head-to-head with the Summer Olympics. And it showed. The Summer Olympics drew 30 million viewers. UFC attracted about 2.36 million, according to the overnight ratings. (Those numbers could go up or down slightly once the final ratings are known.)
For the first time since 2006 and the UFC’s dynamic explosion into the mainstream, the brand may be hitting somewhat of a growth ceiling. With multiple pay-per-views per month, a network television deal to broadcast quarterly, a live cable show on Fuel, a reality show on FX, coupled with last year’s purchase of its main competition, Strikeforce, the UFC has been everywhere.
But is it too much of a good thing? Time will tell. The bulk of the UFC’s growth was in the 18-34 year-old category, a group that is finicky, and whose interests wax and wane depending on the flavor of the month. Sports bars that once teemed with young men have largely thinned out for two reasons: The UFC charges these places thousands of dollars more to broadcast each show than it did in 2008, and some club owners have opted to drop the broadcasts.
There’s also a lack of big name performers do draw people away from date night and into sports bars to watch fighting. There’s no crossover stars such as Chuck Liddell, Brock Lesnar and Randy Couture. Dan Henderson is probably the last of the great icons who was big a few a years ago when UFC ballooned – and fortunately for the UFC, he is headlining a big show on Sept. 1 again.
The UFC on Fox’s first show, featuring the Cain Velasquez vs. Junior Dos Santos could have sparked a new generation of fans, similar to the epic Stephan Bonnar vs. Forrest Griffin fight on the first season of The Ultimate Fighter, from 2006. Instead, then-champ Velasquez walked into the fight flat-footed and got dropped by Dos Santos in 64 seconds.
Unless it’s Mike Tyson knocking out tomato cans, nobody likes to seek knockouts that quick. The show drew. The first UFC show drew 5.7 million viewers, but it’s been mostly downhill since.
Viewership dropped to 4.7 million for the second show.
The third UFC on Fox show went head-to-head with the Floyd Mayweather Jr vs. Miguel Cotto fight on pay per view and viewership dropped to 2.4 million.
UFC on Fox shows still draw higher than non-sports programming in that time slot on Saturdays. But Fox reportedly agreed to pay the UFC $100 million over seven years for the contract to broadcast the fights.
The UFC has shown a tremendous ability to build a brand during the perfect storm and when the timing was right. Can they continue to grow, build and maintain a brand when thrill and exciting has flattened? Maybe the UFC can lure Brock Lesnar back, or coax another big pro wrestling star to move to MMA to make it fresh again.
The most watched MMA fight in history was broadcast by EliteXC on CBS, when Kimbo Slice battled James Thompson. The fight drew about 6.5 million viewers.
Contact reporter Joshua Molina at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/JoshuaMolinaMMA