Episode 3 of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 8 has the distinction of scoring the lowest ratings in the history of the series according to MMApayout.com.
The October 1 episode garnered an anemic 0.8 rating, which translates into 1.1 million viewers overall. In addition to quarter hours of 0.80, 0.66, 0.79 and 0.90, the key demographic numbers were 1.13 in males 18-34 and a 1.04 in males 18-49.
This news comes as a bit of a shock, considering it's so early in the season. The bulk of episodes 1 and 2 featured elimination fights to determine the final 16 contestants. And episode 3 was considered to be the unofficial launch of the series, with fighters getting accustomed to the UFC house and the selection of teams.
While it might not be time to hit the panic button just yet, the series needs to demonstrate an immediate improvement in ratings (and the ability to stabilize at or above 1.0) if it's to be deemed a success.
By comparison, Season 7 found itself frequently dabbling in the 1.0 range, even dropping slightly below that number on two occasions. However, the series was able to rebound, scoring are 1.13 with 1.5 million viewers later in the season. In addition, the ratings in the 18-34 demographic were up from Season 6.
To be fair, Season 8 hasn't had the chance to prove itself. But now the stakes are even higher in light of the dismal ratings for episode 3.
While I enjoy the addition of coaches Frank Mir and Antonio Nogueira, there is an outside chance they're not bringing in TUF generation viewers.
It's not a knock on their accomplishments, but perhaps the absence of mainstream popularity enjoyed by previous coaches like Forrest Griffin and Tito Ortiz that could be to blame.
If Dana was able to produce the next Anderson Silva, he'd better make it a point to unveil him sooner rather than later.
The success of the season could depend on it.