A UFC vs. Bellator head-to-head battle on Friday night turned out poorly for both sides.
Both companies headlined with a women's championship fight, and the moral of the story, especially from the UFC side, is that putting names that people don't see as championship fighters and slapping a title match label to it means next to nothing in 2017.
The TUF 26 Finale on Friday night, headlined by Nicco Montao becoming the first women's flyweight champion in history with a five-round decision over Roxanne Modafferi, did 501,000 viewers. It was, by a large margin, the lowest rated primetime live UFC show ever on FS1. The previous lows were 609,000 viewers for a July 13, 2016, show headlined by Tony Ferguson vs. Lando Vannata and on May 31, 2014, for a show headlined by Stipe Miocic vs. Fabio Maldonado.
The audience was steady throughout as the main event peaked after 1 a.m. in the closing rounds at 566,000 viewers.
The show also drew 5,271 viewers over an average minute streaming on FOX New and FOX Sports Go.
The prelims averaged 361,000 viewers, and had an additional 3,569 viewers streaming during an average minute. The previous lowest number in 2017 for primetime prelims for a live fight show was 453,000.
Bellator, for a show from Thackerville, Okla., headlined by Julia Budd retaining her featherweight title over Arlene Blencowe, did 439,000 viewers, which would be the third lowest for a primetime show since Bellator has been on Spike.
On Saturday, against a big night of football and the retirement fight of Miguel Cotto on HBO, the prelims before UFC 218, featuring one of the year's best fights with Yancy Medeiros' win over Alex Oliveira, did 694,000 viewers.
It was the fourth lowest prelims before a pay-per-view event of the year. That would indicate a lower-than-usual pay-per-view number. Prelim ratings are usually, but not always, a good predictor of the pay-per-view number.
The Medeiros vs. Oliveira fight peaked the number at 841,000 viewers.
The show went against college football on FOX, ABC and ESPN, with the FOX game with Ohio State vs. Wisconsin doing 12,918,000 viewers.
The Cotto vs. Sadam Ali fight did 944,000 viewers, the second biggest number for a boxing match this year on HBO. The Cotto vs. Ali fight wasn't competition for the prelims, since it took place during the UFC pay-per-view show itself.
The UFC 218 pre-fight show before the prelims started on FS1 ND did 170,000 viewers. The post-fight show on FS 1 did 114,000 viewers.