The season premiere of “The Ultimate Fighter Live” drew an average of 1.3 million viewers to FX on Friday night, according to sources in the industry.
The live debut featured 16 one-round fights over the course of a two-and-a-half-hour broadcast, narrowing the cast from 32 members to the 16 fighters who will enter the “TUF” house. Coaches Dominick Cruz and Urijah Faber watched the proceedings cageside, along with UFC President Dana White.
Despite the new network and format, ratings failed to match the 2 million viewers the show averaged during its previous 14 season premieres on Spike. The previous low came during the Season 14 debut, as 1.5 million viewers tuned in to watch a collection of bantamweights and featherweights vie for a UFC contract.
Viewership peaked during the initial episode of “TUF 10,” when an average of 4.1 million viewers watched as coaches Rashad Evans and Quinton Jackson presided over a cast of heavyweights that included YouTube fighting sensation Kevin "Kimbo Slice" Ferguson. To counter the FX premiere, Spike enlisted Ferguson to host its first installment of “Ultimate Fighter Fridays,” which airs previous episodes of the show and drew an average of 653,000 viewers for its debut last Friday.
The Bellator Fighting Championships also began its sixth season on Friday; the main card aired on MTV2 and featured a featherweight title clash between Joe Warren and Pat Curran. For the next 12 weeks, each episode of “The Ultimate Fighter Live” will culminate with a live fight, but training and in-house interactions will be taped during the week. Spike will continue to air “Ultimate Fighter Fridays” opposite “TUF Live.”