This past Saturday was a hectic day for combat sport fans. From Cage Warriors 91 to Wilder vs. Ortiz and finally UFC 222, there was plenty of heart pounding action this past weekend. Those in the United States without the Netflix of combat sports (UFC Fight Pass), missed out on an incredible Cage Warriors event. Nonetheless, American viewers were treated to an assortment of entertaining fights.
Now, while this past weekend did provide a massive Heavyweight boxing match, and UFC 222, the time of year is ripe with college basketball fans frothing at the mouth waiting for March Madness (Annual college basketball playoff, single elimination tournament). Or simply waiting to spend the last half of next months rent on March Madness betting pools.
It comes as no surprise, seeing college basketball dominate Saturdays ratings. ESPNs 8:17 pm, broadcast of college basketball brought in a domineering 1.1 rating for the age bracket of 18-49. ESPNs coverage of college basketball not only dominated the time segment most closely related to the UFC 222 FS1 prelims, but the entirety of Saturday night.
As shown in the table below (table sorted by 18-49 rating, highest-lowest):
What lingers as an obstruction, in terms of expansion and growth for the UFC (and the sport of MMA), is ESPN. Although ESPN alienated a large portion of sports fans with their slight transformation from facts and highlights to politics and culture, they still command a heavy dominance in the 18-49 demographic. Fox Sports made its attempts to garner a larger following in that same demographic but there is something to be said when it comes to brand recognition and loyalty. Also, even when the world-wide leading sports network heavily diluted its content with popular culture and politics, those topics are hard-pressed to boil to the topic of conversation during a live broadcast of one of the networks highly popular sports.
Dana White and the UFC seemed to have a decent relationship with the folks at ESPN. White notoriously announced Nate Diaz as the short notice replacement for UFC 196 against Conor McGregor. The infamous night in which the superstar, McGregor, lost his very first and only UFC bout by rear-naked choke submission.
But the two entities do not share a good enough relationship to see UFC television rights brought to ESPN. Which happens to be utterly disappointing for fans whom want to see the sport grow. The next step for MMA looks like ESPN, for without their audience, MMA can never survive solely as a sport and not an entertainment production, at least in the United States.
Looking at the table, UFC 222 prelims competed well on what was a huge sports weekend. Prelims earned just short of 1 million total viewers (905,000), while garnering a .3, 18-49 rating. With those numbers, the prelims beat out the Showtime Championship Boxing: Wilder vs. Ortiz broadcast, until the main event. Then, comparing the Showtime main event broadcast numbers to the UFC 222 prelims, MMA came in a blade of grass below boxing.
To say Showtime Boxing beat the UFC 222 prelims would not paint an accurate description (although quite literal). The two broadcasts nearly did the same numbers, but I shall concede, even a difference as small as .1 in the 18-49 demographic rating is an important metric.
What behooves rational thought, is similarly scheduled broadcasts and the numbers they garner. A&E’s live reality show, Live PD: 100 airing at 9:00 pm, earned a .6 in the ever important 18-49 demographic. Even more surprising, HBOs airing of the newest edition of the long drawn out Alien movie franchise, Alien: Covenant.
Alien: Covenant earned a 1,250,000 total viewers with a .4, 18-49 rating, shrinking the relative outreach of the UFC 222 prelims. It stands beyond reason to understand human beings in the age bracket of 18-49 willingly staying home to watch a HBO movie broadcast. As stated before, utterly behooving in any sense of thought, especially on a weekend as such.
UFC Announces Liverpool Event, Darren Till Main Event
Scousers are drowning in celebration this evening. Earlier today, UFC officials announced the addition of a Liverpool show to their 2018 event calendar. Liverpool’s, Echo Arena, plays host for the event, which takes place on May 27th.
Liverpool’s own, Darren Till made the announcement this afternoon with Dan Hardy at the UFC Fight Night: Werdum vs. Volkov, ceremonial weigh-in. When asked by Hardy what it means to have the UFC in Liverpool, he had this to day, “Words can’t describe it. It doesn’t do it justice, words. So, it’s coming and I’m going to be the first Scousers to ever have done it. In 200 years they’re going to remember my name in combat sports in Liverpool. I’m gonna take someones chin off in Liverpool, that’s what’s happening”.
He was also quoted in an release from the promotion saying, “I can’t believe UFC is finally coming to Liverpool and I’m going to be headlining Echo Arena. My name is going to be remembered in 200 years time for being part of this historical event and I can’t even describe how much that means to me”. Till will headline the card, his opponent is yet to be announced.
In the official release, it quotes David Shaw, Senior Vice President International and Content, claiming, “The stars really aligned for the Octagon to touch down in Liverpool. We have seen such phenomenal demand from fans in the region for a live event. Pair that with having such a rising, local star in Darren Till it made absolute sense to bring our first live event to this historical combat sports city in 2018”.
UFC Liverpool lands on a date speculated for a different venue, in a different country. Reports swirled last month, specifically one from MMAFighting.com, which claimed the May 27th date belonged to the UFCs return to Dublin. A return to Dublin doesn’t seem to fall completely out of the realm of possibility. For now, it remains to be seen.
The UFC also announced two bouts, both in the Middleweight division, booked for the event. Elias Therodorou takes on Trevor Smith, and Daniel Kelly goes up against England’s Tom Breese.
Rhode Island Prospect John Douma Booked for CES 49 against Zach Burhans
The New England regional MMA scene has been fairly quiet this month. Such a description won’t be apt one month from now. As the days fade away from the month of March, the two most prominent organizations of this region gear up for early April events. The CES MMA promotion holds CES 49, on the first Friday of April (April 6th). CES 49 takes place in its hub venue, Twin River Casino, in Lincoln, Rhode Island.
Yesterday, CES officials announced John Douma, a highly regarded pro featherweight prospect, makes his third appearance for the MMA promotion, when he faces Zach Burhans at CES 49.
For John Douma, he looks to continue his career with an undefeated record. At 2-0, Douma owns two stoppage victories, both coming in the first round (1 KO/TKO, 1 Sub). Born and raised in Wyckoff, Rhode Island, Douma is the New England regions 18th ranked pro Featherweight (Rankings by Tapology.com). A lofty ranking for a 21-year-old with only two professional fights on his record. Especially so in the regions most prominent professional division.
Zach Burhans comes into next months match with a similar amount of experience. Burhans has four professional fights in his arsenal of experience with a record of 3-1. Twice that of his opponent, but two times a small number is still a small number. The New York fighter makes his promotional debut at next months CES 49.
Surprisingly, Burhans has not fought since his last loss, which came in March of 2011. The loss was the first of his four fight pro career. It also was the first fight for Burhans since August of 2009. At CES 49, he ends his second hiatus from professional mixed martial arts. His second and most recent break from the sport was his longest. Burhans did not compete from March 2011, until next months CES MMA card. Making the span between his most recent and upcoming, around 6 years and nine months.
CES 49 takes place at Twin River Casino in Lincoln, Rhode Island on April 6th. Other bouts featured on the card include, #1 ranked New England Lightweight, Nate Andrews takes on Chris Padilla for the promotions vacant Lightweight title. Kaline Medeiros attempts to bounce back following her 3rd round submission loss to rising star, Mackenzie Dern at Invicta 26, when she faces 11th ranked pound-for-pound New England women’s fighter, Jenna Serio. Also, Chris Curtis goes up against Jason Norwood in a main card Welterweight clash.
Report: Bellator plans Rome event for July
With the news of Bellator 200, turning a bit stale being nearly a week old, comes more international event news for the promotion. According to a report by Raphael Marinho of Combate, Bellator scheduled its third international event of 2018. In the report, it states the promotion booked July 14th as a date for a Rome, Italy event.
It will be the first event held by Bellator in the historic city of Rome, Italy. The first in Rome, but the fifth Bellator event in Italy. Previously, the promotion made stops in Torino and Florence, Italy, holding two events in each location. It also marks the 23rd international held by Bellator. 23 events across 10 cities, and 5 countries.
The previous four Italian events held a mixture of combat sports. Each of the events had a Kickboxing card, serving as the main event and an MMA card, which acted as a main card. News of an accompanying Kickboxing card, most likely, would come following a formal announcement of the event.
Also included in the report, the promotion is working to make Alessio Sakara the headliner of evening. Sakara spent nine years with the UFC (Oct. 2005 – Oct. 2013). Over that span, he earned a record of 6-8. He was cut following four consecutive loses. Before signing with Bellator, Sakara signed with Final Fight Championship, where he went 1-0, 1 NC. His final fight with FFC (Final Fight Championship) was a 1:32 KO of his opponent.
The Italian athlete, Sakara, fought on three of the four previous Italy held Bellator events. Sakara headlined Bellator 190 & 168, while begin the co-main event for Bellator 152. Interestingly, the Middleweights only Bellator competition took place in his home country of Italy. He is 2-1 with the promotion, defeating Brian Rogers and Joey Beltran, respectively, while losing to Middleweight champion, Rafael Carvalho, most recently.
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