938,000 viewers tuned in to watch the Bellator Fighting Championships’ Spike TV debut on Thursday night, network officials announced Friday.

The figure marks a sharp viewership increase from Bellator’s past seasons on MTV2, which averaged between 155,000 and 230,000 viewers over the span of about 21 months. Spike TV -- the longtime broadcast partner of The Ultimate Fighting Championship -- is available in about 98 million homes, while MTV2 is available in roughly 80 million, according to an industry source.

According to Spike TV president Kevin Kay, viewership peaked at 1.2 million for the opening 15 minutes of the broadcast, and an audience of 1.1 million witnessed the featherweight title bout between Pat Curran and Patricio Freire. 950,000 viewers saw Michael Chandler defend his lightweight strap against Rick Hawn later in the evening.

Bellator 85 took place at the UCI Bren Center in Irvine, Calif., and was headlined by a lightweight title confrontation between Chandler and Rick Hawn. Chandler put forth arguably the best performance of his young career, as the 26-year-old strangled Hawn with a second-round rear-naked choke to retain his belt.

The result marked the second successful title defense of the evening, as Curran kicked off the Spike TV broadcast by taking a hard-fought split decision over Freire. The evening’s main draw also saw Mikhail Zayats and Jacob Noe advance to the Season 8 light heavyweight tournament semifinals by earning first-round technical knockouts over UFC veterans Renato Sobral and Seth Petruzelli.

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