When you hear Friday Night Fights most will reflect on the glory days of boxing but as of last week Friday’s prime time slots will be loaded with a smorgasbord of mixed martial arts action.
On FX the Ultimate Fighting Championship presented The Ultimate Fighter Live with Spike TV counter-programming a best of series hosted by backyard brawler Kimbo Slice as well as Bellator Fighting Championships presenting their featherweight stacked event.
And to the surprise of nobody, each of their shows drew below-average numbers in their Friday time slot.
Now most will jump to the conclusion that with three MMA programs running simultaneously forced viewers to make a choice but the big problem is Fridays are owned by WWE Smackdown for the 18-49 demographic that makes up most of the MMA population.
The comparisons between professional wrestling and MMA are endless, whether die-hard fanatics want to admit it or not.
Obviously there is the clear difference of one is scripted and one is real but if you removed that we would be looking at near identical forms of entertainment and the general public understands that.
Smackdown lead the pack with a 2.15 rating making them the second most watched show in their time slot with UFC scoring a 0.94 rating and Bellator lagging well behind with a 0.20.
The issue at hand isn’t putting on action-packed fights because both UFC and Bellator delivered the goods in that department, the issue is the combatants on display for both organizations are people the general public aren’t emotionally invested in.
Not to mention getting your grubby little mitts on MMA action has never been easier — With all major organizations having television platforms and the rise of internet streaming and internet pay-per-views if your willing to look hard enough you can get almost any fight.
The UFC will run the MMA market share for the foreseeable future because they have all the most marketable stars and a large percentile of the top-ranked combatants.
Dipping numbers for the UFC aren’t a large problem since its their first season on a new network with Urijah Faber and Dominick Cruz as coaches who aren’t well-known entities just yet.
Cruz and Faber joined the UFC when the featherweight and bantmaweight classes were added to their already bloated roster in 2010 and their run on this series parlayed with their grudge-match is expected to make them stars so the UFC can take a momentary hit.
Bellator on the other hand cannot continue to put up such abysmal numbers — The Chicago-based organization were recently purchased by Viacom, the parent company of Spike TV and now more than ever need to prove their worth.
169,000 people peeked Bellator 61 last Friday despite being heavily advertised and being headlined by one of their most marketable stars Joe Warren defending his featherweight title.
Their 0.20 rating is among the worst they have put up since being added to the MTV2 line-up and is down from their average of 183,000 viewers for the previous season.
Bellator first began getting noticed with their television deal with the tiny Spanish network ESPN De Portes running Thursday nights.
Issues arose with this set-up due to time slot changes and the show being on some weeks and off others but with a stable time slot on Thursday nights Bellator could grow an audience without fighting the murderers row of competition.
Bellator have worked with TNA Wrestling in the past to promote their tournament-based fighting and could be a relationship that could strengthen in 2012 when Bellator inevitably lands on Spike.
TNA are the highest-rated show on Spike now that the UFC have linked with FOX so naturally you can pair them together with Bellator serving as the lead-in for the wrestling show while moving MMA Uncensored to another night.
TNA learned that going head-to-head with WWE programming is detrimental in 2010 and Bellator and the UFC will have to learn this lesson the hard way too it seems.