The final live ratings for the UFC 235 prelims ended up as the best mark for that type of show in more than two years.
The four-match show, airing from 8:15 p.m. to 10 p.m. on ESPN this past Saturday night, finished second to NBA basketball on ABC in most key adult demographics.
The four-fight show averaged 1,480,000 viewers, up from 1,339,000 for the prelims before UFC 234 three weeks earlier. The numbers for both shows were the best for pay-per-view prelims since Dec. 30, 2016, when the prelims before the Ronda Rousey vs. Amanda Nunes fight averaged 1,511,000 viewers.
At least partially due to strong college basketball lead-ins, ratings for the UFC remain significantly up since the move to ESPN from FS 1 since the start of the year.
What makes the comparison between the last two shows even more impressive is that Saturday’s show had a good lead-in from a North Carolina vs. Duke college basketball game that did 1,692,0000 viewers, but the lower rated UFC 234 prelims had Duke vs. Virginia lead-in that did 3,318,000 viewers.
But this show had a far stronger lineup of fights, including popular veteran star Diego Sanchez, a potential superstar in Johnny Walker and a strong Zabit Magomedsharipov vs. Jeremy Stephens fight. In addition, the main card on pay-per-view with Jon Jones vs. Anthony Smith and Tyron Woodley vs. Kamaru Usman in title matches, was far superior to that of UFC 234.
The UFC prelims were the second most-watched sports event in its Saturday night time slot behind the Golden State Warriors vs Philadelphia 76ers NBA game on ABC, which did 3,631,000 viewers. The other significant competition head-to-head, AAF football on there NFL network, did only 409,000 viewers.
Even though the North Carolina vs. Duke lead-in had more overall viewers, that was due to a huge difference, an 0.81 to 0.49 ratings edge among viewers over the age of 50. UFC beat its lead-in in all demos under the age of 50 aside from teenage girls.
The UFC prelims were the highest rated show on cable television Saturday night in Males 12-34, 18-34, 18-49 and 25-54, as well as overall in 12-34, 18-34, tied for first in 18-49 and second in 25-54.
The peak rating of 1.65 million viewers came for the Diego Sanchez win over Mickey Gall, coming off the end of the basketball game, but the number stayed strong though the Zabit Magomedsharipov vs. Jeremy Stephens headliner.
However, the Magomedsharipov vs. Stephens fight did the best in many major markets, being the highest rated fight of the night in the New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Dallas and San Francisco markets.