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UFC ON FOX DEBUT A HUGE HIT: Heavyweight Championship is Most-Watched UFC Event Ever; Most Watched Pro Fight Since 2003

History was made last night as the UFC made its broadcast television debut on FOX, and a record audience tuned in as the challenger, Junior dos Santos defeated defending champion Cain Velasquez in a first round knock out to claim the coveted heavyweight crown. It was the most-watched UFC event ever and the most-watched professional fight of any kind in eight years, according to fast national ratings made available by Nielsen Media Research.

The hour-long UFC on FOX premiere scored a 3.1/5 household rating/share, with 5.7 million viewers making it the most-watched UFC event ever and the most-watched professional fight of any kind on any network since 2003 when 7.0 million tuned in to watch Lewis-Klitschko on HBO. Velasquez-dos Santo is also the highest-rated and most-watched professional fight of any kind on a broadcast network for OSCAR DE LA HOYA’S FIGHT NIGHT on FOX. (4.3/6, 5.9 million viewers) in 1998.

FOX Research projects that last night’s UFC on FOX premiere broadcast to win the 9:00-10:00 PM time period across key demos including Adults 18-34 (3.2), Adults 18-49 (3.0); Men 18-34 (4.3) and Men 18-49 (4.0). Competitive fast national ratings for other networks are currently unavailable.

The UFC on FOX debuted strong opposite significant college football competition last night. ABC’s primetime Oregon-Stanford broadcast averaged a 6.0/11, while NBC’s Maryland-Notre Dame primetime broadcast averaged a 1.4/3 and ESPN averaged a 1.5/3 in prime for Alabama-Mississippi State (college football ratings are overnights – overnight for UFC on FOX event was 3.5/6). The three games combined to total 8.9/17 in primetime. Interestingly, among the Men 18-34 demographic, the UFC on FOX premiere posted a 4.3, strong enough to out-rate every college football telecast this season on any network with the exception of last week’s No. 1 vs. No. 2 LSU-Alabama match-up (through 11/5).

The most recent mixed martial arts programs on broadcast television were a series of EliteXC events on CBS in 2008. The premiere of UFC on FOX attracted an average audience +16% higher than the premiere of EliteXC on CBS (5/31/08), their most-watched EliteXC event (5.7 vs. 4.9 million viewers). UFC on FOX also out-performed the EliteXC show in household rating (3.1 vs. 3.0) and across key male demos: Men 18-34 +34% (4.3 vs. 3.2); Men 18-49 +33% (4.0 vs. 3.0); and Men 25-54 +23% (3.8 vs. 3.1).

Las Vegas led all local markets with a 5.3/9, followed by Dallas (5.1/10), Phoenix (5.1/9), San Antonio (5.1/8), Tulsa (4.9/8), San Diego (4.8/9), Greensboro (4.6/6), New Orleans (4.5/6) and Los Angeles (4.3/8).

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