The next major television deal for the UFC – which could shape the direction of the sport over the next several years – is expected to be wrapped up in the next six months.
The UFC’s current deal with Spike TV is coming to an end, so the organization is currently in negotiations with the network as well as virtually every other possible partner to get the MMA giant the best deal possible.
“We’re in negotiations right now, so we’re still talking,” UFC president Dana White revealed on Saturday. “Should be wrapped up in the next six months.”
The UFC has been with Spike TV for several years, including the launch of “The Ultimate Fighter,” which debuted in 2005, and has been a flagship show for the network. White says that they are still working with Spike TV, and could absolutely end up back with them for another run, but they have to explore all options to get the best possible deal.
“We want to be with somebody we can grow with like we have with Spike. We’ve had a great relationship with Spike and done great things there, so hopefully we can figure things out,” stated White.
“Negotiations are negotiations, doesn’t matter who you’re talking to. I have a lot of respect and a lot of good relationships over at Spike TV, and we’ve been with them for a long time. They built us; we built them. We’ll see how the whole thing goes.”
The UFC has proven to be a commodity for every network they’ve worked with thus far, including Spike TV and the Versus network. While the UFC president admits that the promotion really doesn’t make any money off of their TV deals, it’s the exposure and growth of the brand that requires a deal get done.
One possible landing spot could still see the UFC on network television. White states that broadcast TV was always a potential landing site for the promotion, but the right deal just never came along.
“It’s always been part of the deal,” White said about network television. “Our deal has always been we could do fights on network television, we’ve just never come to a deal with network television. We’re not going to make dumb deals that don’t make sense.”
The UFC has in the past come close to sealing several major deals, but just didn’t pull the trigger when the final contracts didn’t seem right. At one point, the UFC was ready to begin a programming deal with HBO, but control issues sat at the heart of why they couldn’t finalize an agreement.
“We’re going to have to get in a situation where we create a deal with one of these networks where we have control of the product,” White said. “You imagine if I let somebody else take control? This is something they didn’t give a (expletive) about and didn’t believe in for the last 10 years and now they’re going to control it and say how it’s going to be run and how it’s going to be aired? Ain’t going to happen while I’m here.”
With the growth of the sport and the UFC’s rising popularity, any network could be a possible landing spot. NBC, however, could be a frontrunner due to the network giant already owning the Versus network, which currently airs UFC programming.
NBC Sports head Dick Ebersol recently resigned amidst a contract dispute with new owners from Comcast. It’s been widely reported that he was never a fan of mixed martial arts, so his resignation could be a positive in any UFC negotiations. Mark Lazarus now leads NBC Sports, but there’s no word on his opinion of MMA.
Whether it’s NBC, ABC, CBS, Spike TV or some other network, the UFC president says everybody is in the running. That’s what negotiation is all about.
“We’re talking to everybody.”