CBS/EliteXC Saturday Night FightsThe final ratings are in and records have been set. Kimbo Slice proved his drawing power by pulling in 6.51 million viewers during the final 20 minutes of the show when he was fighting James Thompson in the main event. This bested the previous record holder—Quinton Jackson vs Dan Henderson in the main event of UFC 75 on Spike TV which drew in 5.9 million viewers—making it the most watched fight in the history of mixed martial arts.

The entire event drew a 3.0 rating (4.85 million viewers) making it the highest rated MMA show in history. UFC 75 on Spike TV was the previous record holder with 4.7 million viewers.

Press release from CBS:

June 3, 2008

CBS’s Inaugural Mixed Martial Arts Broadcast Dominates Its Time Period In All Key Young Men And Young Adult Demographics With Steady Gains Throughout The Telecast

Key Men Demos Soar in Final 21 Minutes: 4.1 in Men 18-34, 4.0 in Men 18-49,

4.3 in Men 25-54

Ratings for the final 51 minutes of CBS’s inaugural CBS ELITEXC SATURDAY NIGHT FIGHTS mixed martial arts broadcast (11:00-11:51 PM, ET/PT), which were unavailable Sunday, delivered an average audience of 6.12 million viewers, according to updated Nielsen live plus same day ratings for Saturday, May 31.

The audience peaked at 6.51 million viewers from 11:30-11:51 PM which featured the night’s main event—Kimbo Slice’s victory over James Thompson.

Among key men demographics, the broadcast peaked from 11:30-11:51 PM with a 4.1 rating in men 18-34, 4.0 rating in men 18-49 and 4.3 rating in men 25-54.

The addition of the final 51 minutes lifted ratings for the entire broadcast. CBS ELITEXC SATURDAY NIGHT FIGHTS (S) (9:00-11:51 PM) delivered a 3.0/06 with 4.85m viewers, 2.2/07 in both adults 25-54 and adults 18-49, 2.3/09 in adults 18-34, 3.1/09 in men 25-54, 3.0/10 in men 18-49 and 3.2/12 in men 18-34. In the 9:00-11:00 PM time slot, CBS was first in the adults and men demographics, second in both households and viewers.

Compared to CBS’s 9:00-11:00 PM regularly scheduled programming on Saturday during the 2007-08 season, CBS was up +16% in adults 25-54 (from 1.9/05), +57% in adults 18-49 (from 1.4/04), +156% in adults 18-34 (from 0.9/03), +121% in men 25-54 (from 1.4/04), +173% in men 18-49 (from 1.1/03) and +357% in men 18-34 (from 0.7/03).

CBS also saw half-hour gains in viewers, adult and men demographics throughout the broadcast:

Adults Men Adults Men Adults Men Viewers

25-54 25-54 18-49 18-49 18-34 18-34

9 PM 1.4 1.9 1.4 1.9 1.5 2.1 3.38m

9:30 PM 1.6 2.2 1.6 2.2 1.7 2.4 3.66m

10 PM 2.2 3.0 2.1 2.6 2.1 3.0 4.68m

10:30 PM 2.6 3.6 2.5 3.5 2.7 3.8 5.53m

11 PM 2.8 3.8 2.6 3.6 2.7 3.8 5.84m

11:30 PM 3.1 4.3 3.0 4.0 3.1 4.1 6.51m

SHOWTIME will rebroadcast the event on Friday, June 13 (11:00 PM, ET/PT).

With a rating of 3.0/06 with 4.85 million viewers for the full event, the show is considered a success. Despite my feelings, which have been shared by much of the hardcore fan base, on the quality of the show, the numbers are what’s important, at least for now. A second EliteXC/CBS show will take place, likely in the late summer to early fall. The mainstream reaction has been mixed, but not quite as bad as I thought. My biggest fear and the true test will be how the second show does. EliteXC seriously needs to sign Tito Ortiz, because I’m not sure if Kimbo can draw those kind of ratings again after his performance.

This should put the UFC in a better negotiating position with a different networks, such as FOX. That is, if Dana White and company want it. I can only imagine what Quinton Jackson vs. Chuck Liddell III would do in primetime.