Dana White was understandably thrilled today when the news emerged that the UFC’s debut on FOX last night was watched by an average of 5.7 million viewers on primetime television making it the most watched MMA event ever in North America.
“I’m pumped,” the UFC president told Yahoo! Sport’s Dave Meltzer after hearing the numbers. “I wouldn’t change a thing. We had to introduce the sport to a bunch of people who had never been it before.”
According to Meltzer FOX execs had budgeted the advertising for the event based on a fairly conservative estimate of 4.5 million viewers tuning in, so they too must surely have been pleased to see it comfortably exceed that figure.
The overall production of the event ran smoothly as the UFC and FOX combined forces for the first time, but the only fight aired during the broadcast, a heavyweight title bout between Cain Velasquez and Junior Dos Santos, ended all too quickly with a KO after just 64 seconds.
On an evening that was set to showcase the sport to millions of new fans that wasn’t the ideal outcome and it’s not clear whether those who did watch will have seen enough to convince them to tune in when the UFC’s deal with FOX officially begins in January, but White accepts that this is just part and parcel of the sport.
“It would have been great to have had a three-round war, but we can’t control how the fight is going to go.”
As has come to be expected from the UFC the event drew particularly well amongst adult males with M18-34 pulling a 4.3 while M18-49 drew a 4.0.
What was particularly pleasing to White however was the suprisingly large number of females who also tuned in, with the stats indicating 1.7 million women over the age of 18 watched.
“Aren’t you amazed by the number of women who were watching?” White queried. “When the earlier numbers came in and it looked low, we were still No. 1 [in the time slot] with women. That’s crazy.”
The only figure that still remains to be established is the peak rating during the broadcast which should have been during the actual fight itself, but regardless of what that turns out to be White and the rest of the UFC family can rest assured that they have made a successful start to their adventure in network television, and there’s every possibility that the best is still to come.