The UFC has gone with a different format for all three of their events on FOX. The first show in November was just an hour long, and featured a lot of talking. The only fight was the heavyweight title fight between Cain Velasquez and Junior Dos Santos. That show drew 5.7 million viewers. The second show in January was a three fight card featuring some well-known names (Rashad Evans, Chael Sonnen, Michael Bisping). Each fight on that show went to decision, and the show drew 4.7 million viewers. Last Saturday's UFC on FOX show was the best card yet, with four fights being featured, and three of them ending in a finish. The fighters on the card weren't really mainstream names however, and the show drew its lowest rating yet, 2.25 million viewers.
This is really not a good trend for the UFC, and while the change in format resulted in more exciting fights, the lack of name value punished the ratings. The presence of a Floyd Mayweather fight on the same night, although the fight started after the FOX show was finished, didn't help matters at all. My feed on Twitter was largely electric for the Mayweather fight, despite these people never talking about boxing when him or Manny Pacquiao isn't fighting. My timeline was also relatively stagnant for the UFC card.
A lot of the ratings problems the UFC is suffering since moving to FOX has to deal with how engrained they were on Spike. You knew that if there was a UFC show, it would either be on pay-per-view or on Spike (discounting the rare Versus show). Since the FOX deal began, UFC live events have been on PPV, FOX, FX, and the rarely carried Fuel TV.
Their fourth show on FOX, scheduled for August 4th, is going to be huge for the UFC. But looking at the announced card right now, it appears they're going to go the same route they did with this Saturday's installments. The announced fights include American military hero Brian Stann taking on former Bellator champion Hector Lombard in his UFC debut, former light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida facing former Ultimate Fighter winner Ryan Bader, heavyweight hard hitters Ben Rothwell and Travis Browne going at it, and exciting lightweights Joe Lauzon and Terry Etim battling. I wouldn't be surprised if either of the last two fights were on the undercard, and the main card got beefed up by more established names.
This isn't the end of the road for the UFC, not by a longshot. Their last pay-per-view (Jones vs Evans, two weekends ago) drew 700,000 buys. That looks like a shadow in comparison to the possible two million plus mark that Mayweather-Cotto is rumored to have drawn, but is still a pretty big number. With middleweight champion Anderson Silva fighting over the summer and welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre set for the fall, the UFC still has some aces up their sleeve when it comes to PPV buyrates. The question is whether any of those upper echelon UFC stars will make the crossover to FOX.
[h/t: MMA Manifesto]