UFC on ABC 1, Promotion’s Return to Network Television, Draws 1.2M Viewers

Max Holloway and Calvin Kattar, UFC Fight Island 7 / UFC on ABC 1
ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - JANUARY 17: Max Holloway celebrates after his unanimous-decision victory over Calvin Kattar in a featherweight bout during the UFC Fight Night event at Etihad Arena on UFC Fight Island on January 17, 2021 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

The UFC’s debut on ABC, its first appearance on a broadcast network in the United States since 2018, was a stunning success in terms of in-cage product. Max Holloway topped the card with one of the greatest performances of his career, while a number of main card fights boasted exciting finishes.

How many eyeballs the event drew is another matter. Although one impacted by a number of mitigating factors.

Saturday’s UFC on ABC 1 broadcast, which had a 3PM ET start time, drew 1,220,000 viewers, per numbers released by entertainment industry website ShowBuzz Daily. That earned the broadcast a 0.72 rating, which placed it just ahead of Sunday’s AKC National Championship dog show, which also aired on ABC, for the week.

In a more direct competition, FOX aired Big 10 college basketball action on Saturday, drawing 1,269,000 viewers in a game starting at 12PM ET. The U.S. Figure Skating Championship — Men’s Short Program broadcast, at 4PM, lagged behind the UFC broadcast (the ladies, later in the night, were another story).

Apples to oranges, however. Time of day (3PM is not a normal start time for UFC fans) and competition from the NFL, which had the LA Rams vs. Green Bay Packers playoff game on Saturday afternoon, likely ate into the UFC’s viewership. The playoff came averaged over 26 million viewers.

Still, the UFC on ABC 1 broadcast was well down from the promotion’s 2018 swansong on FOX, which drew in 2,153,000 viewers when all was said and done. The previous FOX event, UFC on FOX 30, had actually hit what was then a record low for a UFC event on broadcast TV, pulling down 1,770,000 million viewers.

Interestingly enough, UFC on ESPN 18 back on December 5 garnered 1,055,000 viewers on ESPN, and another 245,000 on ESPN 2.

If the UFC gets another outing on ABC (hopefully in a better time slot and not against playoff football), we may get a better picture of where the promotion stands in terms of broadcast television viewership. Either way, it’s hard to argue against the in-cage product on Saturday.