The UFC’s first preliminary card pay-per-view broadcast on ESPN saw huge numbers thanks to a college basketball game. UFC 234 took center stage at the Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne, Australia, with over 15,000 eager fans in attendance watching forth. The broadcast aired on ESPN, scoring a whopping 1.95 million viewers (the highest number in two years), mostly credible towards a basketball game between the teams Duke and Virginia. Considering the scrapped middleweight championship bout between Robert Whittaker and Kelvin Gastelum, this number comes as a surprise to many.
The UFC has benefited a great deal with its recent broadcast business deal with ESPN. Events that lay low in terms of publicity or television ratings, like the UFC 234 prelims, gain traction through being led-in by other major sporting events. The Duke-Virginia basketball game topped the ESPN broadcast charts at 3.76 million viewers, that day. UFC 234 rendered as the third-most-watched sporting event that night, alongside the debut of AAF on CBS and the NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunders and the Houston Rockets.
On that note, the UFC 236 event is scheduled to come to fruition along with the NBA playoffs on ESPN, slated for April 13th. Being led-in by a major sporting event is working wonders for the UFC in the broadcasting space, who will surely be looking to keep up with this trend.