UFN 28 and TUF 18 Ratings Tank: Is UFC Programming Becoming Watered-Down?


It looks like the UFC’s move to their new home at Fox Sports 1 is going to have its fair share of growing pains. After UFC Fight Night 26 debuted in Boston to rousing success with 1,782,000 viewers, UFC Fight Night 27 followed with a drop in viewership when 824,000 people tuned in to see Carlos Condit knock Martin Kampmann out in Indianapolis.

After that, unfortunately, things got even rockier. According to MMA Fighting, this Wednesday’s UFC Fight Night 28 from Belo Horizonte, Brazil, turned in a viewership of only 809,000 fans. The season premiere of The Ultimate Fighter 18, featuring the heated rivalry between Ronda Rousey and Miesha Tate, was watched by an alarmingly low number of 762,000 viewers, making it the lowest-viewed TUF debut in the series’ lengthy history.

The season that had previously held the dubious distinction of having the lowest-rated premiere was TUF 16, featuring Roy Nelson vs. Shane Carwin, which had 947,000 people check out the season kick-off. These low numbers could mean a couple of things for the UFC, and may or may not be cause for concern.

First, the oft-discussed debate of if the UFC is putting on too many events inevitably comes into play here. Since the ratings have dropped with each passing UFC on Fox Sports 1 card, it’s easy to say that they are. At the core of the issue, having three fight cards in the span of one week is going to be wholly exhausting for all but the most devout of MMA fans. It’s hard to keep track of all that for casual fans, and with so much UFC programming being shoved down their throats in a short amount of time, I’m not sure if this strategy is a sustainable one.

There’s no doubt that the fighters present on the UFN cards are talented and deserve their shot. But when the main card features a fight like Francisco Trinaldo facing an Octagon-debuting Piotr Hallmann (who I think will be a very promising UFC Lightweight), non-dedicated fans may be lost in the mix. It turned out to be a great fight but maybe putting them on the preliminary card of a PPV event would have been a better idea.

I think the Fox Sports 1 shows were entertaining and solid cards. But the casual fan is obviously beginning to think that the market is becoming saturated, and the low numbers back that up. I know that the UFC is attempting to kick off their new channel with a bang, but it’s rarely right to have too much of a good thing.

Part of it is the switch to a new channel, which isn’t available to as many subscribers as Fox or even FUEL TV. It’s going to take time to develop a following for the new network, and patience will be a virtue when it comes to that.

In terms of TUF, however, the numbers are quite morbid. The Rousey-Tate rivalry was intended to inject a much-need shot of life into the arm of the ailing series, but it appears to have done the opposite. Even with the hype of the first female coaches, the show failed to eclipse even the lowest-rated season of TUF. That’s not a good sign, and it should be cause for the UFC to tail back on their programming push.

They most likely won’t, but consider this: Is it really the best time to debut a new season of TUF after fight fans have already been potentially watching five hours of bouts from Brazil? Again, only the most hardcore fans would endure.

TUF may just be failing as whole. The ratings continue to decline while the contract is shrinking in meaning, as most fighters who are on the show get another chance to prove themselves in the Octagon even if they lost on TV. Maybe fighting-based reality shows are just going by the wayside, that is entirely possible. It’s going to take some time for viewers to get acclimated to tuning into Fox Sports 1, and that’s to be expected. But is cramming in as much UFC content as possible the right way to get new fans and keep the many that you already have? Debatable.

I’d have to say no, that the promotion should focus on putting together more stacked cards that truly bring in the ratings rather than having a more watered-down schedule with a ton of events. I love most of the cards, but when you have a good amount of fights that are basically unknown to even an average UFC fan, then your content is getting water down. I know it will take time and patience for FS1 to come into it’s own, but we’ve had this debate before. I believe it was around the summer of 2012, when the Gray Maynard vs. Clay Guida snoozefest actually headlined a card on FX.

We may be back at that point somewhat, but I think that recent UFC on FS1 events have delivered great bouts, especially main events. The sheer volume may just be too much for casual MMA supporters, and TUF may have jumped the shark in its own right. What is your take on this ratings decline?

  • I think if it was on Spike where theres a mass following and many people who ordered it over the years for UFC etc. It would be very bad. Fox sports is still new. They just don't allow as many people to access the show as they did before.

    People need to stay patient. They have a long term plan. Which is what they should be doing. Knee jerk reactions and planning only causes problems.

  • That was not much more than Fightmaster. We'll see but for me TUF has a lot to bring to compete with Fightmaster as a show. Unless you like all the drama more than the fights.

  • To bad they cant count torrent downloads, Im one of the many without fox sports 1, or fox anything for that matter. Cable with 40% time wasted on commercials just straight up *****.

  • The UFC continue to flog the same dead horse in TUF, they have encountered numerous battles with the culinary union, many of their household names and stars have retired. We have seen ongoing injuries and divisions being held up, bad match ups, expensive gate prices and PPV robbery for water downed cards. And now you have bellator snapping at their heels. There are too many big sports out there. I think the UFC's best days are behind them. When Dana retires I believe they will face big problems trying to find someone who can sell their cards.

    I'd love to see the UFC do away with PPV and make the sport available free like football, baseball, basketball.

  • I think it's like you said, too much UFC programming. After a while you just want to watch something else.

  • Jem

    Spike TUF > FoxSports1 TUF. Spike simply produced a better show and marketed it more effectively.

  • I've watched every season expect the Brazil one and this new one. Nothing against women fighters but I just don't care to watch their fights. I enjoyed the last TUF season on FX but doubt I'll watch much of this new season.