In a head-scratching turn of events, flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson’s greatest triumph in the octagon has actually resulted in his worst-ever numbers for a FOX-aired main event at last night’s (Sat., April 15, 2017) UFC on FOX 24 from Kansas City, and also the worst-ever numbers for a UFC on FOX card.
The card, which featured Johnson tying respected former champion Anderson Silva’s record for consecutive title defenses at 10 and also the return of popular women’s strawweights Rose Namajunas and Michelle Waterson in the co-main event, still struggled mightily according to a report from MMA Fighting’s Dave Meltzer to the tune of a record-low 1.74 million viewers in overnight numbers and a .6 share in the paramount 18-49 demographic.
By comparison, last year’s UFC on FOX card at the same time of the year, which featured Glover Teixeira vs. Rashad Evans in the main event, drew 2.13 overnight viewers and a .8 share in the 18-49 demo, while 2015’s April UFC on FOX spearheaded by Luke Rockhold vs. Lyoto Machida drew even more at 2.43 million viewers and a .9 share in 18-49.
In an odd parallel for the event’s overall success, the event from the Sprint Center was the first-ever UFC card in Kansas City, and broke the record for total gate at the Sprint Center with .1 million total earned, something that UFC President Dana White highly touted after the card’s conclusion.
But that won’t help the overall appeal of the event, which is unfortunately an indictment of Johnson’s highly criticized drawing power, as his three prior UFC on FOX main events all did bigger numbers than his greatest win last night. It’s even more concerning because Namajunas, a heavily promoted contender dating to her early UFC days on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF), and Waterson, who recently became the strawweight divisions darling after stealing Paige VanZant’s promotional freight train by submitting “12 Gauge,” squared off in the main event.
Waterson’s victory over VanZant in the main event of last December’s UFC on FOX 22 drew 2.69 million viewers in overnight ratings itself, almost a million more than Johnson vs. Reis garnered last night.
It could also be a damning critique on fan’s overall attitude for the UFC and their new owners in the highly lackluster start to 2017, something White said the WME-IMG-owned promotion would snap out of as they gained momentum heading into the summer.
One more further motivating factor in the poor ratings could be Johnson’s continued dominance, as he’s rarely ever even close to tested in his fights, which often air on FOX. One would think this would actually play in his favor as it has with past champs. Most likely it was a combination of several factors.
However, it’s still a tough look for the marketing “Mighty Mouse” as a true star if a record-tying dominant title defense gains the lowest ratings ever.