Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) made its return to national television this past weekend (May 5, 2012) with UFC on Fox 3, featuring a Lightweight title fight between the surging Nate Diaz and the always tough Jim Miller and a co-main even battle between Welterweights Josh Koscheck and Johny Hendricks.
The televised portion of the card was kicked off in style by a Heavyweight scrap between knockout artist Lavar Johnson and Pat Barry that showed once again the reason Johnson is a force to be reckoned with, knocking out "HD" in the very first round.
In what UFC President Dana White called a "perfect night," "Kos" and "Big Rigg" also entertained the crowd in a back-and forth affair, while Alan Belcher proved his dominance over Rousimar Palhares in a middleweight tilt.
Sounds like a successful night, right? Unfortunately, UFC on FOX 3 didn't do too well in the ratings. In fact, they were the lowest of all three Fox events. Despite the dip in viewers, UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta is not worried one bit.
Speaking to Yahoo! Sports, Fertitta talks about the decrease in viewers for UFC on Fox 3, and also says that a bright note was that Nate Diaz showed that he can be a future pay-per-view (PPV) star.
Check it out:
"Would we like to see the numbers be trending differently? Yes, of course, but we're not concerned and we don't think it's an overall reflection of our business. There are reasons for it. If you think about it, for the first [Fox] fight we had a massive amount of promotion within the NFL on Fox. And we led with our big show, the heavyweight championship, so of course, we were going to draw a much broader range of viewers. The fight in January in Chicago actually performed pretty well, even though it was a little below the first one. It was still super solid. This last show, I'd say it was a moderate performance. Really, what we're looking at is, 'How did we rank within the competition compared to what was going on that night?' And in hindsight, going on Cinco de Mayo may not have been the best thing to do."
Low numbers aside, the UFC did do well in the 18-49 demographic in its time slot (via Yahoo! Sports):
Despite the competition, the UFC ranked first in the 18-49 demographic in its time slot. (The Mayweather fight didn't count, because pay-per-view shows aren't tracked by Nielsen.) The UFC had 1.471 million 18-49 viewers Saturday. Even that, though, was significantly less than in the first two Fox cards. On Nov. 12, the UFC drew 3.776 million 18-49-year-olds and on Jan. 28 it was 3.072. The live viewing of the April 28 boxing match between Bernard Hopkins and Chad Dawson on HBO attracted 1.57 million total viewers and 919,000 in the 18-49 demographic, despite being in 80 million fewer homes than UFC on Fox 3.
Fertitta also believes the fact that the event was also competing with the record setting box office blockbuster movie "The Avengers," didn't help their cause. On a bright note, Lorenzo is confident that the UFC has found a new star to promote in the form of Nate Diaz:
"If The Avengers did [a box office of] over $200 million for the weekend, unfortunately for us, there were a great number of our potential viewers sitting in a movie theater somewhere. Or, they were out that night celebrating Cinco de Mayo. Listen, I'm not trying to make excuses. Hats off to HBO and Bernard Hopkins. That's a great job and a great number they pulled. But when you say, 'Are we concerned,' I'd say no. We're excited. We had a situation where 2.5 million people, which I would say is still a substantial number, got to see what I would say was a tremendous product. All four fights were great fights and in the main event, Nate Diaz showed he's potentially a breakout star who down the road could move the needle for us on pay-per-view. The playbook is playing out for us exactly the way we wanted it to. Before I was involved in the pay-per-view business and understood the ins and outs, I was always scared to death to change the channel. We will work on this and look at it, but we're not unhappy. We got a tremendous amount of exposure for a kid like Nate Diaz. We're going to build him the way we built Jon Jones. Two years ago, nobody knew who Jon Jones was, and now, a couple of weeks ago, we did a very good [PPV] number for his fight that I think really crossed over and where the non hard-core fans were talking about it."
With UFC on Fox 4 slated to go down in August, which features a Middleweight scrap between Brian Stann and recently acquired Hector Lombard and a Light Heavyweight bout between Lyoto Machida and Ryan Bader, the UFC will hope that the decline in viewership doesn't continue.
Or will it?
"All-American" has a great story to tell as a United States military veteran, but will it be enough to move the needle on national television? And can Nate Diaz really be a future pay-per-view (PPV) draw for the promotion?