The Ultimate Fighter was rejuvenated this season on FX with a new night and time slot and the results showed in the series finale that aired on Saturday night.
The long-running reality show had struggled to gain a foothold at its new home on FX over the last couple of seasons, buried at a 10 p.m. time slot on Friday nights. The finales, which are live fight cards, have pulled in better than average ratings, but haven't hit a home run like many of the pay-per-view preliminary cards or other events held on FX.
This time around, however, a very good season for the show resulted in a great ratings for the finale that featured former cast member Kelvin Gastelum beating ultra-hyped favorite Uriah Hall by split decision.
The ratings, according to Fox officials, came in at 1.71 million viewers, the highest of the three Ultimate Fighter finales held on FX since the show shifted there last year. The debut edition called Ultimate Fighter Live, pulled in one million viewers, while last season's TUF 16 finale averaged 1.3 million viewers over its broadcast.
The Ultimate Fighter: Team Jones vs. Team Sonnen was hailed as a ratings and critical success all season long after moving to Tuesday nights and featuring a new documentary style format.
Fans stuck around for the whole season with consistent ratings week in and week out, and the finale pulled in even higher numbers.
According to the press release emailed to Bleacher Report on Tuesday, the TUF 17 finale ranked No. 1 in the coveted 18-34 male demographic and finished second in the 18-49 male demographic behind only Fox, which aired NASCAR on Saturday night.
Those numbers are very solid considering the appeal of that particular demographic and the fact that the Ultimate Fighter finale bested both cable and broadcast networks on Saturday night in the key categories.
The entire season of the Ultimate Fighter: Team Jones vs. Team Sonnen averaged 1.32 million viewers overall, which is a 45 percent increase over season 16 of the reality show that aired in 2012.
“This was a great way to end The Ultimate Fighter’s run on FX,” said Chuck Saftler, Executive Vice President, FX Networks. “I want to thank Dana White, Lorenzo Fertitta and Frank Fertitta, as well as Craig Piligian on three amazing seasons of the series. I wish them all nothing but the best in their move to FOX Sports 1.”
The next season of the Ultimate Fighter will move yet again as the show shifts to the new Fox Sports 1 network that launches on August 17. The new season features UFC women's bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey and new top contender Cat Zingano as coaches overseeing a cast made up of both men and women competing at 135 pounds.
The new show debuts on Wednesday night, Sept 4 at 10 p.m. ET.
Damon Martin is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report