The UFC’s first live event on the Versus network this past weekend drew 1.24 million viewers.

Breaking the stats down further the 2 hour event scored a 1.66 rating in the males 18-34 demographic, as well as a 1.21 figure in the persons 18-49 category, two age groups which have traditionally been the backbone of the UFC’s fan-base.

There had been a lot of interest to see how much of a ratings boost the UFC could bring to the station compared to the other Zuffa owned entity, the WEC who have been based on Versus for quite some time.

WEC 47 aired live on March 6th and brought in just 373,000 viewers – but it should be noted that this event, and several other recent WEC cards aired while Versus was not available to DirecTV customers. That situation was rectified just days before the UFC event aired.

The WEC has bettered the UFC’s debut figures on two previous occasions though – WEC 34 drew 1.54 million viewers in 2008 while WEC 41 brought in 1.3 million in the summer of 2009.

Both events starred the WEC’s biggest star Urijah Faber. The UFC’s first offering on the other hand featured a strong card, but not one that featured the promotions biggest drawing stars.

Fighters like Jon Jones and Junior Dos Santos are exciting prospects, and shaping up to be the stars of the future, but are not yet at the level of fighters like Brock Lesnar, GSP and BJ Penn for example

The other comparison to be drawn is between the UFC’s performance on Versus compared with their regular home, Spike TV.

On that note Spike TV events certainly draws more viewers – 1.7 million tuned into UFC Fight Night 20 in January for instance, but it should be remembered that Spike is available in a wider number of homes and has a long-standing relationship with the UFC.

Overall the UFC’s figures are good, but not earth-shattering. So why are the UFC bothering with Versus?

The general idea is sound – that it’s good to spread their reach into different networks, and potentially tap into a new viewership that isn’t reached by their existing deal with Spike. At the same time they also hope to draw more attention to their sister product the WEC which also resides on the channel.

It’s likely that as people become more familiar with the UFC putting on events on Versus that that the viewing figures will grow, and the best thing for MMA fans is that it means we get to see more events for free than we did before, and that’s good news indeed.

On Sunday night after the event Dana White announced that the promotion will return to Versus on August 1st.