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New report shows once-coveted UFC demographic has gotten old ... fast

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Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is getting older ... and so are the people who are watching it on television.

A new report from Sports Business Journal has the median age of UFC television viewers pegged at 49 years old. That's far outside the desirable — and incredibly marketable — “Men Aged 18-34” demographic that the world’s leading mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion used to score 10 years ago.

Here's the report:

The study, conducted exclusively for SportsBusiness Journal by Magna Global, looked at live, regular-season game coverage of major sports across both broadcast and cable television in 2000, 2006 and 2016. It showed that while the median age of viewers of most sports, except the WTA, NBA and MLS, is aging faster than the overall U.S. population, it is doing so at a slower pace than prime-time TV.

The trends show the challenges facing leagues as they try to attract a younger audience and ensure long-term viability, and they reflect the changes in consumption patterns as young people shift their attention to digital platforms.

One important thing to reiterate is that this study only covers television viewers (not Internet viewers). With UFC pay-per-view (PPV) events promoted prominently online and UFC's Fight Pass service being popular amongst fans, it's very possible that this is where the larger bulk of the younger fans are represented. However, that's not going to help UFC and its network partners such as FOX Sports when it comes to attracting television advertisers. And strong ratings amongst the highly sought after “Men Aged 18-34” demographic has been used for years to prop up any less than stellar overall ratings numbers.

All these numbers and demographics are going to be very important for UFC when its current broadcast deal with FOX comes to an end in 2018. The SportsBusiness Journal has previously reported that the new WME-IMG owners are hoping to pull $450 million in media rights fees per year, which is triple the amount they're making under the current arrangement with FOX.

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