The UFC has become one of the fastest growing combat sport promotions in the last decade, contributing massively to making mixed martial arts a mainstream sport.
In this article, I’m going to detail some of the most important UFC viewership statistics that include data from the Ultimate Fighting Championship but also MMA and combat sports more broadly.
Table of Contents
Key UFC viewership statistics
- UFC 243: Whittaker vs. Adesanya had the largest live attendance in UFC history with 57,127 attendees
- The UFC had a global TV reach of 259 million in 2021
- The UFC had a total of 6.64 billion global social views in 2021
- A total of 92 million followers made up the UFC’s social profiles in 2021, ranking them fifth against other sports
- Social posts by the UFC had an average of 86,575 engagements per post in 2021
- Between 2014-2016, Russia showed the biggest interest growth in the UFC at 6.3%
- Up to 38% of all Americans have interest in combat sports by 2023
- The black ethnicity group shows most interest in combat sports with 52% being a casual or avid fan
- The age group of 35-44 hold the majority of combat sports fans, with 52%
- As much as 52% of males are casual or avid fans of combat sports, compared with only 24% of females
UFC live event attendance
The UFC’s top attended events that reached the top ten:
While the UFC generates most of its revenue from pay-per-view ticket buys for online or remote viewing, they're still putting on a physical event almost every weekend — and that means live attendees.
The highest attendance for a single UFC event was Robert Whittaker vs. Israel Adesanya for UFC 243:
|1st||Whittaker vs. Adesanya (UFC 243)||57,127|
|2nd||Rousey vs. Holm (UFC 193)||56,214|
|3rd||St. Pierre vs. Shields (UFC 129)||55,724|
|4th||Werdum vs. Miocic (UFC 198)||45,207|
|5th||Gustafsson vs. Johnson (UFC On FOX 14)||30,000|
|6th||St. Pierre vs. Koscheck 2 (UFC 124)||23,152|
|7th||Hunt vs. Oleinik (UFC Fight Night 136)||22,603|
|8th||Redemption (UFC 97)||21,451|
|9th||Serra vs. St. Pierre 2 (UFC 83)||21,390|
|10th||Velasquez vs. Werdum (UFC 188)||21,036|
The live attendance of UFC 243 reached 57,127 and was held at the Marvel Stadium in Melbourne, Australia.
This fight was likely so high in attendance because of the dedicated fanbases of Australians (for Whittaker) and New Zealanders (for Adesanya).
Many "kiwi" flew over from New Zealand to attend the event. With the general popularity of fighting sports in Australia already high, it made this an epic event in live attendance and globally.
Two other UFC events were very close to matching this record, Ronda Rousey vs. Holly Holm for UFC 193, which reached 56,214 people and Georges St. Pierre vs. Jake Shields for UFC 129 with 55,724 attendance.
While you might have expected to see an event like UFC 229, Khabib Vs. Conor, on the top list, the event only reached 20,034 live attendees because of the T-Mobile Arena's max capacity.
Breaking the records of live attendance often comes down to simple capacity limits of stadiums/arenas.
To find out which events rank highest in total PPV revenue, see our top 10 UFC PPV buys of all time.
UFC TV viewership
In 2021, the UFC achieved a global accumulative TV reach of 259 million:
|Global reach||259 million|
Of all major sports events and promotions during 2021, the UFC ranked ninth in total global TV reach:
- Tokyo 2020 — 1.47 billion
- UEFA EURO 2020 — 741 million
- UCL — 530 million
- ONE Championship — 406 million
- F1 — 368 million
- Bundesliga — 345 million
- NFL — 338 million
- NBA — 307 million
- UFC — 259 million
- EPL — 251 million
Though TV reach doesn't necessarily equate to actual number of unique viewers, which isn't shared publicly by the promotion.
But I can estimate that roughly 207 million people watch the UFC events each year.
A conservative estimate based on the number of UFC events each year, with 29 UFC Fight Nights that bring in around 300,000 viewers per event and 12 PPV events bringing in 1,000,000,
UFC social views
In 2021, the UFC had amassed notable numbers from its social media content.
The UFC ranks fifth for global social video views with 6.64 billion across the major sporting events and promotions during 2021*:
- NBA — 14.55 billion views
- ONE Championship — 13.84 billion views
- UEFA Champions League — 10.10 billion views
- NFL — 7.74 billion views
- UFC — 6.64 billion views
- F1 — 5.50 billion views
- MLB — 3.79 billion views
- EPL — 3.03 billion views
- UEFA EURO 2020 — 2.25 billion views
- MotoGP — 1.91 billion views
*Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and TikTok
UFC social followers
The UFC's overall social following has been going from strength to strength, ranking fifth for total follower count across Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and TikTok (2021) with 92 million followers:
- UEFA Champions League — 173 million followers
- LaLiga — 129.2 million followers
- NBA — 125.39 million followers
- EPL — 106.7 million followers
- UFC — 92 million followers
- NFL — 56.6 million followers
- ONE Championship — 44.9 million followers
- F1 — 38.8 million followers
- MotoGP — 34.9 million followers
- UEFA EURO 2020 — 32.8 million followers
UFC social engagement
The UFC also had impressive engagement during 2021.
This table shows the average engagement per post on each social platform:
With the UFC's desire to steer the brand towards younger audiences, their efforts on viral video are paying off with TikTok being a dominant platform for them.
Similarly, the short-form video content that works so well on TikTok carries over well to Instagram reels where the UFC is also performing well.
Especially in comparison to somewhat older social institutions like YouTube and Facebook.
UFC's biggest growth markets
Between 2014 and 2016, Nielsen reported that the UFC had three primary growth markets around the world, which were:
- Russia grew by 6.3%
- Spain grew by 5%
- Poland grew by 4.5%
This would suggest that the UFC is growing in popularity and at a global scale.
A large part of this growth in Russia was likely driven by the success of Khabib Nurmagomedov, who was a rising and undefeated fighter at that time.
But Khabib wasn't the only Russian fighter making a name and bringing in more fans from the East.
The roster of Russian fighters was also building with the likes of Alexey Oleinik, Alexander Volkov (who joined the UFC in late 2016), and Islam Makhachev.
They all helped to bring more viewership and interest to the UFC.
For Polish fans, there were the likes of Jan Blachowicz and Joanna Jedrzejczyk, who were at the top of their fight game. Joanna is still considered one of the best female fighters of all time.
Spain only has a few fighters in the UFC, and yet, the popularity of the promotion is growing there rapidly.
MMA's biggest growth markets
If you widen the interest broader to mixed martial arts, Nielsen also reported that certain countries grew significantly between 2014 and 2016:
- Spain grew by 6.5%
- France grew by 5.2%
- Turkey grew by 4.9%
- Malaysia grew by 4.7%
- Canada grew by 3.6%
- USA grew by 3.6%
The interest in mixed martial arts has spread from North America to Europe.
As the top driver of growth, Spain could soon become a destination that inspires more people to participate in MMA sports and watch competitions like the UFC.
Countries most interested in MMA
The UFC boasts a diverse fanbase across the globe, with bursts in particular regions of the world that are otherwise dominated by other sports like soccer, basketball, ice hockey, and others.
Out of the whole world, five countries top the list of those most interested in mixed martial arts. In 2016, Nielsen reported these countries in their World Sports Review:
Surprisingly, it's not just the USA that loves mixed martial arts. With three of these countries in Asia, there is a broad interest in mixed martial arts in that part of the world.
Additional promotions in the Asian region, like ONE Championship, and famous martial arts forms such as Muay Thai being a part of culture adds to this population interest.
The Brazilians have had a keen interest in mixed martial arts since being the birthplace of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and there being a lot of crossover between BJJ and other combat sports.
Overall interest in combat sports
From a May 2023 survey, around 38% of people show an interest in combat sports such as the UFC:
While most people are still not a fan of any competitive fighting, a fair number are at least casual fans:
- Not a fan: 62%
- Casual fan: 24%
- Avid fan: 14%
Interest in combat sports by ethnicity
Of all ethnic groups, the black community appears to have most interest in combat sports with 52%:
Separating the ethnic groups into four main categories, the white ethnicity seems to have the least interest in combat sports:
- Black: 52%
- Hispanic: 50%
- Other: 37%
- White: 30%
It's quite notable that half of either hispanic or black ethnicities are interested in some type of combat sport which can include MMA.
Interest in combat sports by age
In a May 2023 study of over 2,000 respondents, the middle aged group (35-44) shows most interest in combat sports with 52% declaring an interest in combat sports like the UFC:
But the younger market is close behind, ranked:
- 35-44: 52%
- 18-34: 51%
- 45-64: 37%
- 65+: 12%
Potentially this shows that combat sports is swayed towards younger audiences and efforts to advertise to those groups are likely to double down in the future.
In a separate study in June 2023, the mixed martial arts target audience represented millennials as making up the majority of the fanbase with 41%:
Interest in combat sports by gender
Unsurprisingly, over half of males show an interest in combat sports:
With females showing slightly less than half that in interest:
- Male: 53%
- Female: 24%
Though the female audience is growing thanks to the level of elite female athletes entering fighting competitively, especially in mixed martial arts.
Greats like Amanda Nunes, Holly Holm, and Ronda Rousey come to mind with those that have inspired new generations of female fighters.
Below you'll find the list of sources used to write this article.
- 2016 World Sports Review (Nielsen)
- NBA TikTok follower count in 2021 (Archive.org)
- Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) - Statistics & Facts (Statista)
- Level of interest in combat sports in the United States as of May 2023 (Statista)
- Level of interest in combat sports in the United States as of May 2023, by ethnicity (Statista)
- Level of interest in combat sports in the United States as of May 2023, by age (Statista)
- Target audience: Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fans in the United States (Statista)
- Level of interest in combat sports in the United States as of May 2023, by gender (Statista)
What to read next
Now that you know about the audience and viewership behind the Ultimate Fighting Championship, these next statistical pieces will float your boat: