UFC, or Ultimate Fighting Championship, is the most famous and most important organisation promoting MMA fights. Founded in 1993 and based in Las Vegas, Nevada, the UFC has become a global phenomenon in the less than 30 years it’s been around. As of 2020, the UFC has held over 500 events, most of them in the United States, but also some in other countries like Brazil, the United Arab Emirates, Mexico, Canada, Japan, Kazakhstan, Germany, etc. The question we often get asked is “How long does a UFC event last?”, so we decided to write an article about it. Also, we did a little research to present you some cool statistics about UFC events. So, let’s start.
UFC event lasts about 6 hours. The Early Prelims start at around 6:30 p.m., followed by the Prelims at 8:00 p.m. The Main Card starts at 10:00 p.m. with the final fight of the Main Card ending at around 12:30 am.
Generally speaking, the answer can be, and was given, in the last two sentences. But, there is more to it. In today’s article, we are going to discuss the length of a UFC event, i.e. what specific parts it consists of, how long do they last, when can you expect it to end, and some other interesting statistics we got from the little research we made.
What Is a UFC Event?
UFC Events are specially organised fighting events where several fighters engage in official combat. They have been organised since 1993 and are the main “source” of UFC fights in the world; each organisation has its own events, but the UFC’s are by far the most popular.
UFC events are separated into seven different formats:
- “Numbered” events, currently airing on pay-per-view, with some exceptions
- “UFC on ESPN” events, currently airing on ESPN
- “UFC on Fox” events, formerly aired on Fox
- “Fight Night” events, formerly aired on Spike, Fox Sports 1, Fox Sports 2 or UFC Fight Pass. Currently airing on ESPN+
- “The Ultimate Fighter Finale” events, formerly aired on Spike, FX, Fox Sports 1 or UFC Fight Pass. Will begin on ESPN+ in 2020
- “UFC on FX” events, formerly aired on FX
- “UFC on Fuel TV” events, formerly aired on Fuel TV
- “UFC Live” events, formerly aired on Versus
Most of the so-called “numbered” (article about the meaning of the numbers in UFC events) events have taken place on pay-per-view, though there have been a few exceptions reasons not related to the fights themselves.
Historically, the UFC has also aired preliminary fights prior to the main fight cards, either on television or via online video streaming platforms; preliminary fights are usually not shown during live broadcasts of UFC events on “big” channels, mostly because people aren’t that interested in seeing them.
Beginning in August 2013, and starting with UFC Fight Night: Shogun vs. Sonnen, the UFC began airing non-PPV events on television. In January 2014, as part of the organization’s global expansion, the UFC began airing various international events exclusively on UFC Fight Pass, the UFC’s official video subscription platform (you can read about the Fight Pass here).
Here is the article explaining the difference between UFC Fight Night and UFC PPV events.
This is a brief overview of what UFC events are, how they are divided and how they are broadcast around the world. Now let us see what they consist of and how long do they actually last.
What Do UFC Events Consist of?
A UFC Event typically consists of three parts – the early prelim fights, the prelim fights and the main card events.
Early prelims usually have three or four fights and are not always included in UFC events because they don’t attract that much attention. They can be watched, but are generally not televised unless on demand.
Prelim fights are usually present during UFC Events and consist of either 4 or 5 fights, depending on the event. They are more often televised than prelim fights.
Main card fights are the most important fights of the nights. There are usually five of them and they are always broadcast on television because they attract the most interest.
Check out this article if you are interested in how long do UFC fights usually last.
How Long Do UFC Events Last?
So, how long does a UFC event actually last? In total, a UFC Event typically lasts about six hours, from the time the early prelims start until the main card fights finish. Early prelims usually start about 7:00 p.m. local time and end somewhere after midnight, when the main card fights finish.
This is a good piece of orientational info for all those that like to watch UFC fights, because you’ll know how much time you need to have and how much snacks you have to prepare. Also, it is good to know because of different time zones, so you’ll have to watch out for the differences between your zone and the zone the fight is held in if you want to watch it live; if you’re a fan of reruns, then it doesn’t really matter that much.
But the fact is that these are the complete numbers which you’ll only experience if you’re an avid fan who likes to watch the whole event from start to finish, which probably means you’ll have to spend more money to being with, because most early prelims are available only on demand.
Regular broadcasts start off with prelim matches or just main card fights, depending on the station and the contract they have with the UFC, which means that you’ll rarely see the whole six hours at home or in a sports bar. Depending on the number of fights and their duration, you’ll usually see at least a couple of hours less than the people favouring video-on-demand and the people in the arena.
The schedule is always fixed so that the prelims start around 8:00 p.m. local time, which means that early prelims start off about an hour or an hour and a half earlier, depending on the number of fights.
Since the schedule for prelims and main card fights remains the same, that means that you’ll probably get to experience a four-hour broadcast from your home or in a sports bar if you don’t pay to see the early prelims.
So, be ready to start around 8:00 p.m. and prepared to go home or to sleep somewhere after midnight, depending on how long the fighters actually take to finish their bouts.
Duration of the Early Prelims, Prelims, and the Main Card
Now that we’ve given you the complete numbers, let us see how long each segment of a UFC event usually lasts, so that you can know the exact details for everything that interests you:
- As already said, early prelims usually feature three, but can also feature four fights. These fights are not that attractive because they usually feature debutants and/or fighters with a small amount of fights (or negative records). Since the prelim fights are almost always scheduled to start at 8:00 p.m., early prelims usually start between 6:30 p.m. and 7:00 p.m., depending on the number of scheduled fights. The important thing is that the prelims can start at the prearranged time. The duration of each fight is strictly limited to 15 minutes (3 rounds of 5 minutes), meaning that the total duration of early prelims is either 45 or 60 minutes, depending on the number of scheduled fights. Also, early prelim fighters are not announced and they do not give interviews, which reduces the total duration by a significant amount of time. So, to summarise – early prelims usually start of between 6:30 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. and last for about an hour, so that the prelims can start at 8:00 p.m. as scheduled.
- Prelims contain more relevant fights, but they are never championship bouts, which is why their duration is not as long as the main card fights. Prelims usually contain 4 or 5 matches, also limited to 15 minutes max. (meaning three five-minute rounds). This means that the prelim fights typically last for an hour or an hour and a half. Prelim fighters get announced and they also give interview, which adds something to the schedule, but not significantly much. They typically start at 8:00 p.m. and end around 9:30 p.m., i.e. about half an hour earlier than the main card fights, which are scheduled for 10:00 p.m.
- Main card fights are the most anticipated fights of the night. Typically, there are five of them per event, but the number can vary based on different circumstances. Main card fights last longer, they include better fighters and attract more viewers. A main card fight can last up to 25 minutes, meaning that it has five rounds of five minutes. This makes the total duration of these fights longer than the former two. If you include the announcements, the interviews and the belt awarding ceremonies, main card fights typically last for about two hours. The fights themselves last for around an hour and the half and, theoretically (when you add all the other elements), the whole segment can last for more than three hours, but they usually end around midnight, meaning that their total duration is c. 120 minutes.
This covers all the basics when each segment of a UFC event is concerned. Now, let us analyse something else.
The Longest and the Shortest UFC Event
We’ve already said that UFC events usually last for six hours, with that being the minimal duration, because they usually last longer than that. But, since UFC events don’t actually have a fixed duration, could it happen that they end before these six hours have passed? Certainly! And it has happened before, even in a very surprising manner! We are going to talk about the longest and the shortest UFC events in the history of the organisation, so that you can see the contrast.
Not counting the initial UFC events that featured a knockout system of fights and not the tripartite structure the events count today, the shortest UFC event was the UFC 142, held in Rio de Janeiro in 2012. The event featured a total of 10 fights – 1 early prelim, 4 prelims and 5 main card fights – with the main event being the fight between José Aldo and Chad Mendes.
What happened was the following – out of 10 fights, only three went to the distance, the three being the only early prelim and two prelim fights, lasting 15 minutes each. One main card fight did reach the third round, but was interrupted after about two minutes into it. The six remaining matches all ended quickly in the first round, with three of them ending in under 90 seconds!
The five main card fights lasted just 23 minutes, so less than one full five round match(!) and the total duration of the event was about 105 minutes, so less than two hours! Although the viewers saw a lot of great fights, the fact that the whole thing ended so quickly was a bit disappointing.
In contrast, the longest UFC event in history lasted a full 7 hours! It was the UFC Sydney event held in Australia in 2017. This event had a total of 13 fights – 3 early prelims, 4 prelims and 6 main card fights – with the fights lasting significantly longer. Out of the 13 fights, only three of them ended without going to the distance (3 prelims, with one of them ending in the final, third round).
The 10 remaining fights all went to the distance (9 of them had 3 rounds with the main fight having 5 rounds), meaning that he viewers had a loot of fighting to see. These fighters took their time and with all the ceremonies and other details, the event lasted for 7 hours and thus became the longest event in the history of the UFC.
So, to conclude, there are many factors that can change the length of a full UFC event, with the most important factor being the fights that end early.
In short, the Main Card of a UFC event typically lasts 2-3 hours, starting at 10:00 p.m. and ending at around 12:30 a.m. However, a full UFC event, taken from start to finish, lasts about 6 hours. The Early Prelims start at around 6:30 p.m., followed by the Prelims at 8:00 p.m., with the final fights of the Main Event ending at around 12:30 am.
I hope this post helped you understand how long a UFC event can last. You can use it as a reference point for organising your time if you decide to watch the whole thing. We hope you’ll stick around and follow us for more news on martial arts! Until next time!
If you have any other questions about the UFC, be sure to check out our complete guide to everything you should know about the UFC.