The ratings are in for Saturday night’s buffet of combat sports, and while the UFC 222 prelims were very good, the big winner on the night is Showtime Boxing, and the thrilling headliner between Deontay Wilder and Luis Ortiz.
According to Nielsen’s numbers for cable and premium cable, the UFC 222 preliminary card averaged 905,000 viewers on Fox Sports 1, up from the 697,000 average for UFC 221, and also identical to the more-hyped UFC 220 in January. The only difference between the two events is that 222’s 18-49 demographic rating was 0.31, whereas UFC 220 was 0.39.
Pay-per-view buys for UFC 220 were in the neighborhood of 340,000-380,000 buys, where as UFC 221 is believed to have done under 150,000 buys. Preliminary card ratings aren’t always an indicator of PPV success, but UFC 222’s prelims could provide hope that the PPV fared better than expected, which is also good news for measuring Cris Cyborg’s drawing power without a credible B-side.
As for Showtime Boxing, the entire card on Saturday averaged 730,000 viewers, but Wilder vs. Ortiz itself produced one of the network’s best ratings in a long time. Evidently there wasn’t much interest in Jose Uzcategui vs. Andre Dirrell, but the main event averaged 1,055,000 viewers and peaked at roughly 1.2 million. It is the first time that any Showtime fight has eclipsed the 1 million mark since January 2015, when Wilder won the WBC heavyweight title from Bermane Stiverne. The 18-49 demo rating for Wilder’s 10th round KO of Ortiz was 0.42, good for 7th on the night among all cable broadcasts, compared to 15th for the UFC 222 prelims. Keep in mind that Showtime has a smaller subscription base than HBO, so over 1 million for them is definitely a rarity.
This is a hugely encouraging sign for Wilder’s drawing power, which wasn’t exactly setting the world on fire in several of his previous matchups. Ortiz was genuinely the best opponent he’s faced, and with calls for a showdown with Anthony Joshua growing louder, its viability as a pay-per-view card just got stronger. Joshua’s fight vs. Joseph Parker on March 31st will also be aired on Showtime, although that card is in the UK, so it’s a mid-afternoon start time in the United States.
Last and also least for Saturday, HBO averaged 599,000 viewers for its light heavyweight main event between Sergey Kovalev and Igor Mihalkin, which was not compelling on paper and predictably ended in a Kovalev win.
By Mookie Alexander