At the end of 2011 there will be no more UFC on Spike or UFC on Versus. Starting in 2012 and carrying on for another 7-8 years, the UFC will air all of their content on FOX, FX, and Fuel TV. You know what that means? Live fight cards on network TV, a first for the UFC.
Via Sports Media Journal:
In what would represent a major push into the mainstream for the UFC, Fox has agreed to a deal that will see the broadcast channel air as many as four MMA events per year, according to several sources. The multiyear deal would mark the first time the UFC will have consistent airtime on a broadcast network. Fox execs refused to comment on the deal, but sources with knowledge of the negotiations said bidding had gone as high as $90M per year. The Fox deal is believed to be for seven or eight years. As part of the deal, most of the weekly programming that UFC has on Versus and Spike TV will move to FX starting in January. That includes several fight cards, plus shows like the reality series “The Ultimate Fighter.” Fox-owned Fuel also will wind up with some UFC content. But rumors that Fox will rebrand Fuel as a UFC channel are not true, sources said.
This is massive news for MMA and obviously the UFC. It’s also great news for the fans as we’ll likely see high-profile fights on free TV and not giving up money to buy a PPV or scour the internet for possibly-illegal streams. There will be more on this later in the week but hopefully this means that the UFC will keep control of their broadcast production and we won’t see Gus Johnson anywhere near a fight cage.
I for one am glad that the UFC is leaving Spike TV as they’re just terrible for growing the sport and do a piss-poor job with card pacing. The worst thing Spike does/did was tape-delay live cards, even though the majority of the events they broadcast take place in the Pacific Time Zone. Of the remaining events on their contract, Spike TV will have UFC Fight Night 25: Shields vs. Ellenberger, UFC 138: Leben vs. Munoz, and The Ultimate Fighter 14 Finale, which will be headlined by Michael Bisping and Jason “Mayhem” Miller. After that, they’ll lose everything and it probably dooms them as far as their existence in the future. Who would watch hours of CSI reruns and MANswers?
Versus is simply not a viable sports channel on the basis that they aren’t in enough homes, and the UFC’s cards on there have been below 1 million in all but one event — the very first one headlined by Jon Jones and Brandon Vera — which really gave the UFC no reason to keep them around. Their final card will be October 1st and it’s the Bantamweight Championship between Dominick Cruz and Demetrious Johnson, the first time a UFC title fight has aired live on cable TV.
That’s the basic story, there’s a lot more to this, and I can’t wait for 2012. As long as Joe Buck isn’t cage side to ruin the event before it starts, and there isn’t some stupid robot on the side then I’m content. Oh, and live events on the West Coast would be pretty cool, FOX.