It’s no secret that the UFC prelims have been struggling to find ratings success on television in recent months.
The prelim ratings for the company’s two most recent pay-per-view (PPV) events – UFC 236 in April and UFC 237 in May – both brought in diminishing returns. However, according to a report from MMA Fighting’s Dave Meltzer, that changed with last weekend’s (Sat., June 8, 2019) UFC 238 from the United Center in Chicago, Illinois.
The prelims for the event averaged a strong 964,000 viewers. They peaked at 1.2 million viewers for the featured preliminary bout, a strawweight affair between Tatiana Suarez and Nina Ansaroff. The overall prelim ratings were the highest number on ESPN since the undercard of March’s stacked UFC 235 PPV. That show averaged 1.48 million viewers for its prelims.
Signs Of Life For The Prelims
Perhaps more importantly, the UFC 238 prelim ratings trounced the numbers earned by the UFC’s previous PPV trip to Chicago, which took place at UFC 225 last June. Despite a stacked card featuring a Robert Whittaker vs. Yoel Romero rematch, that event’s undercard only brought in 667,000 viewers on FOX Sports 1. Also of note, the UFC 238 prelims also topped Major League Baseball on FOX, the Belmont Stakes on NBC, and the FIFA Women’s World Cup in the targeted male 18-34 demographic.
UFC 238’s prelims were the highest-rated show in that all-important demo for the UFC. Those three aforementioned sporting events did do overall bigger numbers, however. The MLB on FOX gained 2,560,000 viewers, the Belmont Stakes had 4,909,000 viewers, and the best-rated Women’s World Cup game averaged 1,209,000 viewers.
Overall, the UFC was ranked third on cable on June 8 in the 18-49 age demographic and third in male 18-49. UFC 238 also procured overall 1 million searches on Saturday according to Meltzer. That much online attention once indicated a PPV earning over 250,000 buys. Now that UFC PPVs stream exclusively on ESPN+, those numbers have sunk dramatically and may remain as such for the foreseeable future.
Regardless, the UFC 238 prelim ratings were a welcome bounce-back after two straight lackluster PPVs in that regard. Numbers could rise even more for next month’s stacked UFC 239 PPV, which will cap off International Fight Week on July 6 from Las Vegas.