UK fans usually have to stay up into the wee hours of the morning to catch the UFC’s fights live, but with ‘UFC Fight Night 30: Machida Vs Munoz’ being broadcast from Manchester, England, they had a rare chance to watch the event unfold during prime time hours.
However, The UFC’s first UK event since their move from ESPN UK to BT Sport was far from a success on Saturday, October 26th with just 32,000 viewers tuning in to the broadcast which aired on the BT Sport 2 channel according to BARB (Broadcasters Audience Research Board).
To put the figure into perspective, the last time the UFC came to the UK was in February of this year for ‘UFC On Fuel TV: Barao Vs MacDonald which drew 42,000 viewers on ESPN UK.
A few months earlier at ‘UFC On Fuel TV: Struve Vs Miocic in September of 2012, 78,000 viewers tuned in, again on ESPN UK.
Even UFC On FOX 8: Johnson Vs Moraga in July of this year, the last ever UFC event to air on ESPN UK before the switch to BT Sport, mustered 52,000 viewers despite the fact it didn’t start until 1am.
So, clearly UFN 30 was a disappointment on the ratings front in the UK, and it should also be noted that it also performed badly in the US where it aired in the afternoon, with just 122,000 viewers watching the action unfold live on FOX Sports 2.
Both the UK and US coverage undoubtedly appears to have suffered as a result of the respective networks decision not to air the event on their main channel. In both BT Sport and FOX Sports cases their secondary channels pull far less viewers than their main one, so UFN 30 was always facing an uphill struggle.
UFN 30 was actually the 3rd most watched program of the week on BT sport 2, falling behind live Scottish Football match (43,000 viewers) and FA Cup action (36,000).
Adding insult to injury to the UK coverage of the event, of the small handful of viewers who did actually tune in live, reaction on social media and fan forums suggested that they were far from happy with the way that BT Sport were handling the event.
BT Sport had made the decision to get hands-on with their coverage, which meant there was a heavy focus on switching back to the studio as often as possible, such as after each fight, or while waiting for a result to be announced which didn’t go down well with those watching, particularly as the analysis seemed awkward and lacked the insight fans were looking for.
All in all it seems like a night to forget for the UFC. They still remain committed to the UK market however as they are heading back to London in March for another ‘Fight Night’ card, this time headlined by Alexander Gustafsson Vs Jimi Manuwa.
This is to be the first of at least six ‘Fight Night’ cards tailored specifically at the European market which UFC bosses have warned aren’t guaranteed to air in the U.S.
It’s a bold move, and given the ratings for UFN 30 in the UK questions may be asked regarding whether the juice is worth the squeeze in this instance.