Sunday’s UFC show, which was headlined by Francis Ngannou vs. Cain Velasquez, did 1,463,000 viewers on ESPN, the best number for a main card cable Fight night in more than three years.
The rating would have been significantly higher had the main event lasted longer than 26 seconds, as that bout started out at 1.7 million viewers and would have grown from there.
The last time a cable fight night beat that number was Jan. 17, 2016. The show was headlined by Dominick Cruz beating T.J. Dillashaw in a five-round fight to win the bantamweight title, averaged 2,280,000 viewers on FS 1.
The number was down from what the prelims did on Jan. 19, the ESPN debut for UFC. That show did 1,956,000 viewers for the prelims before Dillashaw vs. Henry Cejudo that streamed on ESPN+.
Sunday’s prelims, headlined by Aljamain Sterling’s win over Jimmie Rivera, averaged 988,000 viewers.
ESPN beat everything in the 9 p.m. to midnight time slot on television in the 18-49 demo except TNT’s coverage of the NBA All-Star Game, the 9-10 p.m. hour of FOX and CBS, and Walking Dead on AMC.
The All-Star Game was the major sports competition on Sunday, which did 6,797,.000 viewers between TNT and TBS. The only other sports competition that night, AAF football on the NFL Network, did 425,000 viewers head-to-head.
It also beat Saturday’s boxing on FOX, headlined by Leo Santa Cruz defending he WBA super featherweight title against Rafael Rivera, which did 1,376,000 viewers.
On Friday night, the Bellator show from the Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Conn., headlined by a quick no-contest between heavyweights Matt Mitrione and Sergei Kharitonov, did 365,000 viewers that night and another 100,000 via DVR viewership through Monday night.
Between live and DVR viewership the peak rating was 723,000 viewers for the television opener with Austin Vanderford vs. Cody Jones.