The UFC recently held their very first main card to air on ESPN with UFC Phoenix on February 17.
In the main event, we witnessed the return of the former two-time heavyweight king Cain Velasquez as he took on the modern day terror, Francis “The Predator” Ngannou.
Unfortunately for Velasquez, his comeback would be spoiled in just 26 seconds. This would also be seen by the most UFC Fight Night viewers in the past three years as MMA Fighting has reported that UFC Phoenix had an average of 1,463,000 viewers with the prelims averaging 988,000. Thus making it slightly less than their official ESPN TV debut with the UFC Brooklyn prelims which averaged 1,956,000 viewers.
Meaning that the last card with as good of numbers was back in January 2016 with UFC Boston when Dominick Cruz returned to reclaim his bantamweight title against TJ Dillashaw. That event averaged 2,280,000 viewers on Fox Sports 1.
Despite still being a relatively good showing, the UFC perhaps could have done even better numbers with UFC Phoenix had they scheduled the event for a different day than that of the NBA All-Star game which averaged a whopping 6,797,000 viewers.
Aside from the main event, UFC Phoenix also hosted a thrilling battle between welterweights Vicente Luque and Bryan Barberena.
A Gracie also picked up the family’s first win in 24 years when Kron Gracie made quick work of Alex Caceres with a first-round rear-naked choke victory.
And directly prior to the main event, “The Irish Dragon” Paul Felder cracked his way into the top 10 by earning a unanimous decision nod over James Vick.
As for the next ESPN UFC card, it will be UFC Philadelphia on March 30 when top lightweight contenders collide as former World Series of Fighting champion Justin Gaethje takes on Edson Barboza.
Time will tell if the investment pays off for the UFC and ESPN, but it’s safe to say that it’s off to a good start.
This article first appeared on BJPenn.com on 2/20/2019