UFC President Dana White (file photo) is taking his show to Fox. | Photo: Dave Mandel
The Ultimate Fighting Championship and Fox Sports on Thursday announced that the fight promotion has signed a seven-year distribution contract with the Fox Broadcasting Company.
UFC President Dana White was on hand for the press conference in Los Angeles, as were fighters Rashad Evans, Georges St. Pierre, Frankie Edgar and Chuck Liddell.
“There have been a lot of big milestones in the last 10 years, but this is the biggest,” said White. “This was it for me. This is what I always wanted. This was the pinnacle -- for us to get a deal with Fox, not just to be on the No. 1 network in the country but to be on the network with all the other major sports. It’s going to take this sport to the next level.”
Fox now holds the rights to broadcast four live UFC events per year on its flagship network, the first of which will take place on Nov. 12, likely from Anaheim, Calif. Additionally, the promotion will air 32 weeks of live fights annually on Fox-owned cable station FX, including two runs of an all-new, live version of “The Ultimate Fighter” reality series.
More specifically, FX will broadcast six live UFC Fight Night events, and “The Ultimate Fighter” will now air live fights in 24 weeks over the course of two seasons, culminating with two live season finales. Beginning with the show’s 15th season, the audience will vote on who will fight on the following week’s episode. Each new show will document the week leading up to the current episode, leading into a new live fight each week.
Fox subsidiary Fuel TV will also benefit from UFC programming. According to Fox executive Eric Shanks, live pre- and post-fight content will air on Fuel TV for both Fox-broadcast events and pay-per-views. Additionally, White confirmed that programs such as “UFC Unleashed” and the “Prelims Live” specials will now be carried on Fuel TV.
The UFC was rumored to be in talks to purchase struggling cable network G4, with plans to transform it into an independent UFC network. However, those plans have been scrapped in favor of the aforementioned arrangement with Fox. The promotion’s broadcast contracts with Spike TV and Versus will expire at the end of 2011.
The UFC’s relationship with Spike TV was a long-standing one, lasting six years. The promotion partnered with the cable network to produce 13 seasons of “The Ultimate Fighter,” and 24 UFC Fight Night live specials at the time of the Fox deal. Though the promotion’s relationship with Spike TV is coming to a close at the end of this year, Sherdog.com has learned from a source close to the situation that Spike retains the rights to re-broadcast select UFC programming through 2012.
“‘The Ultimate Fighter’ Season 14 in September will be our last,” a Spike TV official wrote in a statement sent to Sherdog.com. “We are increasing our commitment to distinctive, original series that we own such as ‘Auction Hunters’ and ‘Bar Rescue,’ which are delivering on our goal to reach a broader audience. 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.”