All the Cage: Solid ratings for Calvillo-Eye; fighters call out ex-UFC matchmaker Joe Silva

Kevin Iole
Combat columnist
A weekly look at MMA’s hottest topics.

Anyone who doubted whether the UFC having had the stage all to itself when it came back last month from the coronavirus-induced layoff would be significant only needs to take a look at its television ratings.

Saturday’s fight card at UFC Apex, headlined by a non-title flyweight bout between Jessica Eye and Cynthia Calvillo in which Calvillo won by unanimous decision, pulled eye-popping numbers.

The show averaged 908,000 viewers, peaked at 1.1 million and averaged 1 million viewers for the final half-hour block during the main event.

This was a show that was widely ridiculed beforehand and called one of the worst shows the UFC had ever put on. But it was the No. 1 sporting event for the week on cable among adults 18-34, adults 18-49, men 18-34 and men 18-49.

It ranked third in overall viewers among sports events behind the Charles Schwab Challenge on the Golf Channel on June 14 and the NASCAR Cup Series race at Martinsville on FS1 on June 10.

As gaudy as those ratings are for a Fight Night show, it doesn’t include the viewers watching via stream on ESPN+. ESPN does not ordinarily release streaming video numbers for ESPN+.

The show turned out way better than anyone could have anticipated, with each of the first three fights ending in a knockout in less than a minute. It was the first time in UFC history that occurred.

Cynthia Calvillo reacts after her decision victory over Jessica Eye in their flyweight fight during UFC Fight Night at UFC Apex on June 13, 2020, in Las Vegas. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

The shows the next two weeks at the Apex, on Saturday and then on June 27, have big-name fighters in the main events, which figures to make the numbers even better. On Saturday, heavyweights Curtis Blaydes and Alexander Volkov meet in the main event. On June 27, a lightweight fight between Dustin Poirier and Dan Hooker will be the main event.

UFC president Dana White was not surprised by the good ratings.

“Everybody was ripping the show and talking s---, but we’ve been doing good numbers on all of these shows, so I figured we would [for Eye-Calvillo], too,” he told Yahoo Sports. “People are loving these fights.”

Silva takes it on the chin

Former UFC matchmaker Joe Silva is one of the most brilliant minds in the sport’s history and made the Hall of Fame based on his work for the sport from its early days until shortly after the company’s sale in 2016, when he retired.

But several fighters, including ex-lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez, Jon Fitch, Mike Pierce, Gerald Harris and Gray Maynard, trashed Silva on Twitter.

Harris wrote: “Joe Silva told me since I lost on the Ultimate Fighter that I would never be good enough for the UFC. So once I got in, he hated me, then couldn’t wait for me to lose. So he gave me four badass newcomers and once I lost, he cut me after three previous KO victories.”

Maynard said, “People have no idea what he put people through.”

Alvarez tried to explain that over a series of Tweets. He said that after a fight with Anthony Pettis, he was at a restaurant eating and saw Silva at the next table. He introduced himself and jokingly asked to fight for the title.

Silva allegedly said to him that the way he was fighting, he’d never get a title shot as long as he was around.

Alvarez gets a fight against champion Rafael dos Anjos, wins it and then says Silva is the first person he saw in the back after leaving the cage.

“No ‘congrats’, no ‘good job’, just a bitter, angry, small little man,” Alvarez said. “I said nothing [because] nothing needed to be communicated. I just winked. Success is how you destroy your enemies.”

Spider vs. Showtime?

Anthony Pettis and Anderson Silva talked on Instagram about fighting each other, but White does not like the fight and so it’s unlikely to happen without a lot of public pressure calling for it.

It is an interesting match that is hard to call given that Silva, who is 1-6 with one no-contest in his last eight fights, is significantly bigger than Pettis. The former lightweight champion has a win over Donald Cerrone and Stephen Thompson at welterweight but Silva still packs a punch and has fought at light heavyweight.

I don’t see a great need for Silva to fight any more. There is nothing left for him to prove, but beyond a 45-year-old man past his prime getting into the cage, there wouldn’t be anything significantly more dangerous about a fight with Pettis than there would be with anyone else.

It’s a fun bout that would get people talking.

I’m not going to get on a soapbox and call for it, but if it were made, I wouldn’t complain, either. 

She said it

“I’ve achieved everything I wanted. I’m well. I can go on with my life, maybe a new step, maybe find new talents, help some girls there, maybe be a coach, too. I’m in a moment that I can retire, you know, and I’m in a moment that I can fight. I’m fine. There’s nothing else to be done right now in the division. The Hall of Fame will come, for sure. My life going forward, if I do stop now, the UFC will give me every support I need to continue having my money and work.” - UFC bantamweight/featherweight champion Amanda Nunes to Esporte Espectacular in Brazil.

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