In the company’s best recent television ratings news, UFC scored a 2.0 cable rating for their television special Saturday night according to numbers released today. The strong show, which boasted three excellent matches during the three-hour special, also scored a 3.7 rating in the key demographic of 18-to-34-year-old males.
After consistently disappointing ratings news for this season of Ultimate Fighter, the special was both UFC and Spike TV’s main opportunity to give the brand a running start on the network.
The rating was up from their debut—the first Ultimate Fighter season finale—which drew a 1.9. Their next live special, positioned around a disappointing fight between Nathan Marquardt and Ivan Salaverry, drew a 1.5 on August 6. The following show was also disappointing as Forrest Griffin pulled out due to an injury and lack of advertising in some ways doomed the idea of going head-to-head with RAW. Nonetheless, the October 3 show drew a 1.6.
Unencumbered by similar concerns, this live special was received as the best free televised mixed-martial-arts show ever. Fights between underdog Diego Sanchez and Nick Diaz; Rashad Evans and Brad Imes; and Luke Cummo and Joe Stevenson were all competitive and entertaining. Sanchez proved his worth in upsetting the well-rounded Diaz and Evans and Stevenson have both won what has been described as a six-figure contract. Cummo was spectacular enough in his performance to be offered a contract as well.
However, the special was the finale of a season of the Ultimate Fighter that has drawn unspectacular ratings (hovering at about 1.3) and failed to establish any of the competitors in ways that made several members of the cast of the original season, including Chris Leben and Nathan Quarry, stars. In retrospect, Sanchez, Forrest Griffin, and Stephan Bonnar were made stars by their athletic performance after the conclusion of the show.
Nonetheless, the ratings news is likely to be seen as a success and affirmation of the entire season to UFC officials, whose company has now become the subject of its greatest attention since controversy erupted over the sports humaneness in the early 1990’s.
The next live TV special is expected to take place the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend of January 14 (a Saturday) or January 16 (Monday, opposing WWE RAW), according to the Wrestling Observer Newsletter. Casting for the next season of the Ultimate Fighter has already begun.