Fox Sports Thursday officially announced a
seven-year media rights deal with Zuffa, LLC, owner of the Ultimate Fighting
This marks the first time the MMA organization
will have its events on broadcast television.
The distribution agreement will put four live
events on Fox -- beginning in November -- and 32 live fights on FX. Fuel will
handle much of the pre and post-event coverage. UFC will still air much of its
signature events on Pay-per-view, but UFC Chairman/CEO Lorenzo Fertitta assured
that the matches on Fox will stack up. "There may be championships on some of
them," said Fertitta. "We're going to deliver big fights."
"We want to pull ratings, we want to pull
numbers," added UFC President Dana White.
Fox's first event is scheduled for Nov. 12; the
card is undecided at this time. White also commented that, with Nov. 12 being
the same date as the anticipated Manny Pacquiao-Juan Marquez boxing match, UFC
is not looking to upstage its rival. "In no way shape or form are we trying to
go up against the Pacquiao fight," said White.
Additional programming on Fox's other networks
will begin January 2012, which includes the reality series The Ultimate
Fighter moving from Spike TV to FX next spring. The series will undergo a
makeover, most notably switching to a live format. Season 14, slated to
premiere in September, will still run on Spike.
"Our six-year partnership with the UFC has been
incredibly beneficial in building both our brands, and we wish them all the
best in the future," said the network in a statement.
FX President John Landgraf said the addition of
UFC programming levels the playing field between his network and others, most
notably TBS and TNT, which broadcast the MLB, NBA, and NCAA Men's Basketball.
"We can now stand toe to toe with anybody in our set," said Landgraf.
It's been noted that a lot of advertisers have
UFC on their "no fly list," but Fox Sports Chairman David Hill explained they already have a number of
them lined up, including Dodge, Anheuser-Busch, Edge Shave Gel, and
Harley-Davidson. "We would not have gone into this deal if we hadn't canvassed
a large group of advertisers who are 100% behind it," said Hill.
Fox Sports execs were bullish on the reach that
UFC has with the young male demographic. "UFC programming is the most efficient
way to target young males," said Eric Shanks, president, Fox Sports.
"The key importance of this deal is what it will
bring to the male 18-34 demo," said Hill.
"Television is all about the next big thing,"
said Hill, who commented that when he first met with the UFC heads, Fertitta
said that "what boxing was to [past generations], is what UFC will be and is to
the next subsequent generation."
"The Fox deal will take this thing to a whole
new level," said White. "We're changing everything."