The ratings for last Wednesday’s UFC Fight Night 35 from Duluth, Georgia and the follow-up debut of The Ultimate Fighter: Nations are in, and initial reports aren’t too promising. The card, which featured a main event between Top 10 middleweights Luke Rockhold and Costa Philippou, garnered a reported 629,000 viewers according to MMA Payout.
TUF: Nations, featuring teams of fighters from Canada and Australia coached by Patrick Cote and Kyle Noke, didn’t fare much better in its debut, bringing in a paltry 371,000 viewers.
On the surface, the statistics give credit to the oft-discussed theory that the UFC may be spreading itself too thin with far too many events and television programs. And in a way, that theory might be right.
TUF ratings have been tanking lately, so placing anything but mediocre expectations on a show featuring lesser-known international fighters is foolish. It’s a niche program and a good idea to be sure, but only the most dedicated of mixed martial arts viewers is likely to tune in on a weekly basis. There’s not a whole lot of connection to the fighters yet, and it may not ever happen on a season receiving a miniscule percentage of the hype that TUF 18 received.
As far as UFC Fight Night 35, the results are disappointing, as the event drew the second lowest Fight Night viewership of all-time. UFC Fight Night 28 from Brazil last September was the only Wednesday night card that was viewed by less. Airing from Georgia, the event’s main card began at 5 p.m. PT, which may have taken a big percentage of the promotion’s West Coast viewership out of the equation. For that reason, the UFC is turning to the now-quantified DVR recording numbers to gauge if the news was truly as bad as it seems.
Either way, the early prognosis on the Wednesday night fight cards on FOX Sports 1 does lend to the belief that the UFC should be putting on less shows. After all, saturating the market with less-than-stellar cards only takes away from potentially good matches that could build up the main cards of pay-per-views in a big way.
On the other hand, there are more and more fighters in the UFC now, and talented combatants like Rockhold and Philippou deserve a chance to showcase their skills. In the case of UFN 35, the card was actually a very exciting and entertaining event.
But that hasn’t always been the case, as cards like UFC Fight Night 29 and 31 were deemed a bit underwhelming and could have benefited greatly from a true top matchup.
Overall I think it’s too early to realistically say if the UFC’s mid-week experiment has failed or not, but we should know for sure by the end of this year. The UFC plans to put on an insane number of events in 2014, and not all of them are going to be all that exciting on paper.
People will either continue to watch and help the sport grow, or find the product too watered-down and only tune in to major PPV events (or worse, nothing at all). It definitely seems like the Fight Night cards aren’t getting the heat they could be, but that’s bound to happen when they feature only one (or less) truly elite match up.
What are your thoughts about the UFC’s mid-week programming? Do you like the new format? Were you excited to watch TUF: Nations, or did you even remember it was on? And do you think the UFC, and MMA as a whole, will continue to grow if they continue to dole out events that only hardcore fans get excited about?
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