Although it delivered one of the most exciting main cards of the year – and even in the history of the UFC on FOX series – the thrilling action at last night’s (Sat., July 28, 2018) UFC on FOX 30 from Calgary didn’t translate into TV ratings success.
The show featured a scintillating back-and-forth contest between rival lightweights Dustin Poirier and Eddie Alvarez in the main event, a contest that “The Diamond” won with a beautiful finishing sequence (watch it here), and also a thrilling comeback stoppage from longtime former featherweight champion Jose Aldo over Jeremy Stephens (watch here) in the co-main event.
However, that appeared not to matter one bit in terms of viewership. With both UFC ratings and pay-per-view buyrates dropping to all-time lows, UFC on FOX 30 continued that concerning trend by posting only 1,461,000 viewers on fast nationals according to a report from MMA Fighting’s Dave Meltzer, the lowest overnight number in the series’ history. The number broke the previous low set by January’s Jacare vs. Brunson, which gained 1,593,000 viewers in fast nationals.
By comparison, the numbers were 11 percent lower than last July’s Chris Weidman vs. Kelvin Gastelum-headlined UFC on FOX, which was another all-time low at the time. However, it’s important to note that the fast national only takes into account the 8 to 10 p.m. time slot, and it also only measures the Eastern, Central, and Mountain time zones. It doesn’t take into account the important Pacific time zone that includes California viewership. Final numbers will be higher and are expected to come out Monday or Tuesday this week.
It wasn’t necessarily all bad, however, as the UFC did propel the FOX network to first place in the key 18-49 age demographic with an 0.6 rating. The other three major television networks of NBC, CBS, and ABC, all had rerun programming while UFC on FOX 30 aired. FOX claimed victory in the 18-34 age demo, but total viewership was the lowest of the four networks due to a low figure in the oldest demo of 50-plus, in which the UFC never brings in high viewership.
The Poirier vs. Alvarez headliner started just after 10 p.m EST, meaning that it just missed the cutoff for counting, but as an only two-round event, it most likely won’t provide a big boost in viewership that a five-round main event could have.
Ultimately the numbers are concerning for the UFC, as UFC on FOX 30 featured what most serious MMA fans considered two can’t-miss bouts in Poirier vs. Alvarez and Aldo vs. Stephens, and from an action standpoint, they were. The card also featured the return of former women’s strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk, who topped Tecia Torres by unanimous decision on the main card.
With the event gaining 122,000 less viewers that Jacare vs. Brunson, which ended up with 1,770,000 viewers, in overnight fast nationals, the event is unlikely to surpass that card according to Meltzer. It’s hardly a great sign that the UFC set an all-time record for low viewership in most likely the second-to-last UFC event on major network TV until 2024 at the earliest with the UFC moving to cable sports on ESPN in 2019.