Watching the UFC events, you might get a feeling that the show is never going to end. This is especially true if most of the 12–14 fights on the cards end in a decision. This made us all wonder, at least once, about — how long does a UFC event last?
UFC events last between 6 and 7 hours on average from the start of the broadcast to the very end. Each event kicks off with the early preliminary card (7 pm local time), last around an hour until the official prelims begin (8 pm), and then comes the main card at 10 pm which usually includes around 5 fights and lasts somewhere after midnight.
This is just a brief explanation and in this article, you will learn how long UFC events last in more detail. You will also find out which were the shortest and longest events in history, and much other unique information.
What is a UFCEvent?
UFC event is an organized sporting event regulated by the Athletic Commission of the state or country in which the show takes place. The UFC has been organizing events in different formats since 1993, and the very first show was called “UFC 1”.
It is aired on the biggest sports networks like ESPN+ in the US, and BT Sport in the UK. The company also has deals with other major cable providers and online streaming platforms across the world.
Throughout its long history, the events have been aired in various formats. This was mainly based on the network UFC had a contract with at the time. But the two major formats have always remained the same: UFC Fight Nights and UFC pay-per-views.
UFC pay-per-view events are also known as “numbered” events like UFC 225 for example. The “number” represents a chronological count of PPV events that have been counted since 1993. In order to watch it, you must pay a PPV price which is $79.98 for users with active ESPN+ membership.
PPVs are the events of the highest profile and the ones that generate the most income. Each event includes at least one title fight, the most popular fighters and contenders, and of course, a lot of media coverage and promo materials.
Fight Night events are low-mid profile shows and a platform where new fighters must prove their worth to the company. The main event usually includes two highest-ranking contenders within a specific weight class competing for a shot at the title. The rest of the card is filled with talented fighters working their way up the lathers.
Fight Nights are not aired in a PPV format which means that anyone who has an active ESPN+ membership can watch it without any extra charges.
What Do UFC Events ConsistOf?
Each UFC event, regardless if it is PPV or Fight Night, consists of between 12 and 14 fights. Next, the matches are split into three segments based on the importance and popularity of the fighters.
- Early prelims
- Official prelims
- Main card
Early prelims consist of two or three matches. In most cases, this segment is reserved for newcomers who are making their UFC debut. As a result, there is not much public interest in these matches as even the most loyal fans usually don’t know who these fighters are. These matches are televised or streamed on online platforms for free.
Official prelims include up to 5 matches. The card consists of fighters who are working their way up the rankings and already have a couple of fights in the UFC. So the overall quality of fighters and matches is better than on early prelims. When it’s a PPV card, prelims may have former champions, contenders, and other popular fighters. It’s certainly a segment you don’t want to miss out on.
The main card is the most important segment of the show that consists of the most anticipated fights of the night. On average, the main card includes 5–6 matches, with the co-main and main events being the ones that attract the most interest from the fans.
How Long Do UFC EventsLast?
Each UFC event lasts around six hours from the beginning of the early prelims all the way to the end of the main event match. Early prelims start at around 7 pm local time and last up until 8 pm where the preliminary fights take over before the main card begins at 10 pm and ends after midnight.
Bear in mind that this is the total time that includes other segments of the show such as commercials, discussions in between the fights, promos before each match, walk-ins, introductions, interviews, and many other elements. If you focus on the duration of the fights alone, then the events are much shorter, and you surely don’t want to miss our detailed article on “how long UFC fights last on average”.
One of the main reasons why UFC events are split into three segments is to make it easier for the fans, both new and hardcore ones, to navigate through each event. The scheduled start time of each of the three segments is fixed. No matter if all the early prelim fights end in a first-round KO, the next segment will start at the previously scheduled time. This enables you to plan your evening and make sure you don’t miss out on your favorite fights.
That being said, let’s take a closer look at the duration of each of the three segments of the UFC event.
Early prelims are the shortest segment of the show and usually last an hour or hour and a half, no more than that. This segment includes between 2 and 3 low-profile matches and kicks off at 6:30 pm or 7 pm local time depending on the number of fights. Each match is scheduled for 3 rounds, so in total, early prelims last between 30 and 45 minutes.
In most cases, early prelims consist of newcomers making their UFC debut, and from the both business and fans’ perspective, these matches are not that important. As a result, the production team won’t show them walking out toward the cage, get announced before the match, nor they are allowed to give post-fight interviews.
Or in other words, the UFC wants early prelims to pass as fast as possible without any delay. There is very little interest in these matches so the company wants to cut as much time as possible.
The preliminary card always kicks off at 8 pm and it usually consists of 4 or 5 matches. Each match is booked for 3–5 minute rounds, which means that the maximum fight duration is 1 hour on average. This segment usually ends by 9–9:30 pm.
Unlike early prelims, this segment lasts much longer because there are more fights, and the production will show walkouts, fighter introductions, and post-fight interviews. Apart from regular commercials, fans also get to see a short promo material before each preliminary fight.
Fighters who compete in prelims are already established UFC fighters so it is easy for the promotion to make a story and hype up the match. This usually includes a short video about fighters’ history, their journey, what they expect out of this matchup, and other information that would get people interested.
The main card is the most anticipated segment of each UFC event, the one everybody wants to see. It usually kicks off at 11 pm and lasts long after midnight, often up to 1 am. Since main cards include only fighters of the highest profile, the UFC prefers not to book more than 5 matches for this segment. However, the number of fights may vary between 4 and 6 depending on the circumstances.
The majority of the fights are 3–5 minute rounds, while the main events are booked for 5–5 minute rounds, regardless if there is a title on the line or not. There are also cases where there would be two or even three title fights on the card, such as in UFC 251.
So in total, the duration of the main card fights alone can last up to 1:30 minutes if all main card matches end in a decision. And as you are about to see in the section of this article, this has happened before.
Now if you add all the commercials, and broadcast discussions in between the fights, promo before each bout, fighter introductions, and many other elements, you get that the main card can easily last more than two hours.
With each of the three segments analyzed in detail, let’s take a look at the shortest and longest UFC events in history.
The Longest UFC Events in History?
The longest UFC event in history was UFC 263 which lasted 3 hours and 19 minutes in total fight time. If you include other elements of the show such as commercials, walk-outs, interviews, fighter announcements, etc, the duration of the show was over 7 hours in total. Here is a detailed look at the top 3 longest events in history:
UFC 263: Adesanya vs. Vettori 2
Total fight time: 3 hours and 19 minutes
UFC 263 included 14 fights in total, 5 on early prelims, 4 on prelims, and the main card included 5 fights in total. What happened was the following — out of 14 scheduled fights, 11 ended in a decision, which is the most in UFC history.
To make matter worse, this event included 3 title fights out of which 2 went to distance. There were 3 finishes out of which 2 came in the first round, while the third happened at the mid-point of the final round.
As a result of all of this, UFC 263 stands for the longest event in history, the one fans will probably never forget it.
UFC 251: Usman vs. Masvidal
Total fight time: 3 hours and 7 minutes
Despite ending as one of the longest UFC events ever, UFC 251 was a spectacle. The event included 13 fights in total, out of which 3 were title fights booked for 5–5 minute rounds. Out of these 3 title fights, 2 ended in a decision, while the third one between Petr Yan and Jose Aldo ended with a minute and a half left on the clock in the fifth.
Further, fans saw six more decisions on the preliminary cards, which is why this event ended up being one of the longest in history.
UFC Fight Night 121: Werdum vs. Tybura
Total fight time: 3 hours and 4 minutes
UFC Sydney included 13 fights in total and it lasted over 7 hours. The total fight time was 90 minutes on the main card ALONE, without commercials, and other elements. Out of 13 fights, 10 matches went to a decision, and only 3 fights ended before the final bell, with one finish coming in the third round. For years, UFC Sydney stood for the longest UFC event ever until it got beaten by UFC 263.
The Shortest UFC Events inHistory?
The shortest UFC event of all time was UFC 39 which included only 7 fights and the total fight time was just 34:30 minutes. One thing to take into consideration is that the majority of shortest events are the ones from the early days of the UFC. At the time, the events didn’t include more than 7 or 8 matches and the finishing rate was also much higher.
UFC 29: Defense of the belts
Total fight time: 34:30 minutes
UFC 29 had 5 main card fights and 2 on the preliminary card. Out of 7 fights in total, 6 were finishes and 5 of those came in the first round. Only the preliminary match between Chuck Liddell and Jeff Monson ended with Liddell winning a decision. This means that the main card alone, which included 5 fights, lasted only 19 minutes.
UFC 40: Tito Ortiz vs Ken Shamrock
Total fight time: 41:27
UFC 40 was packed from top to bottom, but unfortunately for the fans, the event didn’t last long. Though it included 5 fights on the main card and 3 on the prelims, the entire event lasted just over 40 minutes. Out of 8 fights in total, there were 7 finishes. 6 fights ended in the first round, one in the second, and in the main event, Ortiz won when Shamrock’s corner stopped the fight in the third round.
UFC Fight Night 3 — Tim Sylvia vs. Assuerio Silva
UFC Fight Night 3 will go down in history as one of the most exciting events full of finishes. There were 8 fights on the card out of which only one went to distance. There were 7 finishes in total, with six coming in the first round. As a result, the total fight time was 43 minutes making this event the third shortest in history.
Can UFC Event End Earlier Than Previously Schedule?
UFC events might last shorter than average, which is around 6 hours, but this is not that common. This happens only when the majority of fights on the main card end in early stoppages. So instead of lasting 2 or 2:30 min, as main cards do on average, the length would be reduced to around 90 minutes.
The best example is UFC 142 headlined between Jose Aldo and Chad Mendez, which stands for one of the shortest events in UFC history. Out of 5 matches on the main card, four ended inside the first round, while the last one ended in a third-round stoppage. As a result, the total fight time on the main card was just 23 minutes and 22 seconds. If you include all other elements of the show, the main card lasted less than 2 hours, and the entire event less than 6 hours.
Bear in mind that this does not apply to the early prelims and prelims. Both of these segments start at the previously scheduled time, regardless of how quickly the fights may end. If prelims kick off at 8 pm, and all the matches end in a first-round KO, the main card would still start at 10 pm as scheduled. As a result, the UFC event can end earlier than expected only if the main card fights end early as this is the last segment of the show.
In conclusion, the duration of UFC events is based on many different factors, with the most important one being the duration of the matches on the main card. On average, each event rarely goes below or above six hours in duration.
If you are a new fan having a hard time navigating through each segment of the show, the crucial thing to remember is that each segment starts at the previously scheduled time. Early prelims kick off at 6:30 or 7 pm local time, followed by official prelims at 8 pm, and the main card at 10 pm.
How long the event is going to last mainly depends on how the main card matches play out. The more main card matches go full-length (15–25 minutes), the longer the event would be. But the early prelims and official prelims have a fixed schedule.
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