GLORY 33 was the ninth GLORY card to air on ESPN programming last Friday (Sept. 9, 2016) and the first ever to air live on ESPN2.
According to SportsTVRatings.com, 517,000 viewers tuned in to watch GLORY 33 and see Rico Verhoeven defend his heavyweight belt a fifth time in his technical knockout win over Anderson "Braddock" Silva in Trenton, NJ. That number ties the third-highest watched GLORY card of all time, GLORY 21, which aired on Spike TV in May of 2015.
It's important to note that those were the numbers measured from 11:58 p.m. through 1:13 a.m. ET, when the card aired on ESPN2. The card began on ESPN News at 11 p.m. ET due to the Louisville/Syracuse college football game running late on ESPN2 and switched over after the first hour. ESPN no longer subscribes to Nielsen measurement for ESPN News, so the overall numbers can't be accurately calculated. If you factor in DVR numbers and the missing hour, GLORY 33 was likely one of the most-watched cards in the kickboxing promotion's history.
"It's great for GLORY to be on ESPN2 live and to be right in there with top American sports such as NCAA football," GLORY CEO Jon J. Franklin told MMAmania.com. "It's fantastic to bring GLORY to mainstream sports fans. These ratings show that when sports fans see GLORY kickboxing, they stick around and watch our exciting 100% striking action. Between ESPN2 live, other ESPN platforms, DVR, ESPN SportsCenter and UFC Fightpass, millions of U.S viewers tuned into GLORY 33 and the GLORY middleweight and heavyweight title fights on Friday night."
For a comparison of other combat sports aired over the weekend, the UFC 203 prelims aired on FS1 on Saturday from 8-10 p.m ET and drew 870,000 viewers.
Here are the five most-viewed GLORY cards from top to bottom:
- GLORY 13 659,000 viewers
- GLORY 19 542,000 viewers
- GLORY 21 517,000 viewers
- GLORY 33 517,000 viewers
- GLORY 16 498,000 viewers
What a difference a year makes, as things were looking bleak for the promotion right around this time in 2015. GLORY 24 concluded GLORY's run on Spike TV in October and they were left without a television home. That all changed when GLORY CEO Jon J. Franklin was able to land a deal with ESPN to air the promotion's fight cards on ESPN platforms (ESPN3, ESPN2, ESPN Deportes) right before GLORY 25 in November. ESPN liked what they saw after two cards and came to a multi-year agreement with GLORY in February.
Then in June, GLORY partnered up with UFC to stream all of its preliminary cards, the Superfight Series, on UFC Fight Pass, bringing even more combat sports fans to its product.
Yes, GLORY still needs to promote way more than it does, but that appears to be changing as well. ESPN had Simon Marcus, Dustin Jacoby and Tiffany van Soest on SportsCenter before GLORY 31 and has also run several other segments on SportsCenter in the lead up to the last few cards with Todd Grisham, who became the backstage reporter prior to GLORY 30. Grisham has added a level of cachet in that role and fits in nicely with the stellar veteran combat sports announcer, Mauro Ranallo and "Bazooka Joe" Valtellini as color analyst.
Also, upcoming fight cards are being put together faster than ever before now. If you look back to the five-month drought between GLORY 17 and GLORY 18 (Franklin's first card as CEO) and fast forward to last weekend when GLORY 33 took place, the fight cards for GLORY 34, GLORY 35 and GLORY 36 were all on the calendar. That makes a big difference for the fan base, viewers and ticket buyers. And GLORY is delivering to its fan base in a major way by making a fight that kickboxing fans have long been clamoring to see, Rico Verhoeven vs. Badr Hari, which will headline GLORY: COLLISION on December 10, 2016 in Oberhausen, Germany.
With Franklin steering the ship, the ratings increasing, ESPN adding more SportsCenter segments, Yao Capital acquiring a stake of the promotion and plans to expand into South East Asia, things are looking quite good for GLORY as they head into the last quarter of 2016, where they will close out the year with one of the biggest and most highly-anticipated heavyweight fights in kickboxing history.
Next up will be GLORY 34 on Oct. 21, 2016 in Denver, Colo., which features a featherweight title fight between Gabriel Varga and former lightweight champion, Robin van Roosmalen.