The Ultimate Fighting Championship on Thursday unleashed its new seven-year television deal with the Fox family of networks.
The centerpiece for most longtime fans will be more live fights. That’s not to say that the UFC is planning to add an inordinate number of events to its current schedule. A large number of live fights will come from a revamp of The Ultimate Fighter.
The FX Network is going to be the new home of The Ultimate Fighter Live beginning in 2012. A host of changes are underway, including a much quick turn-time from filming to air on TV. Weekly episodes will be filmed during the week in a format UFC president Dana White coined “jive-live.”
The content will be quickly assembled throughout the week and air on Friday night’s with a live fight on air at the end of the show. This will happen 24 times per year, over the course of two 12-week season, and then culminate in a live finale event.
There will also be six live UFC Fight Night events throughout the year on FX.
“When you take the 26 weeks of The Ultimate Fighter, each with a live fight culminating in a live finale, and you take six fight nights on FX, that’s 32 weeks of live fights on FX on Friday nights, which is going to revolutionize our network,” remarked John Landgraf, the president of FX Network.
So right out of the gate, there are 32 weeks of fights on the FX Network.
The UFC won’t be relegated solely to FX. This new TV deal also marks the promotion’s first continual live event presence on a broadcast network.
“Big Fox,” as White referred to Fox’s broadcast network, will carry at least four events per year. The first such event is already in the planning stages for November.
“We’re working on the fight. That’s going to be the first fight on Fox,” White said in reference to the Nov. 12 live event on Fox. “We’re looking to do it down in Anaheim (Calif.) and we’re still working on the card. It’ll be on Fox. No main event yet.”
That brings the total of live fights on the Fox group of networks to at least 36 weeks worth. Granted the TUF fights aren’t full events, but it’s programming that the UFC, nor anyone else, has ever pulled off before.
The lesser known Fox network, Fuel TV, which caters to the younger, more extreme sports oriented crowd, will also be receiving UFC programming, including some live fights.
It’s not currently in the plans for Fuel to get full-on events, but the channel will air support programming, as well as picking up where Spike TV left off by airing UFC Prelims Live.
“A lot of that other programming from Unleashed to the prelims and things like that will go to Fuel,” said White. “There’s gonna be a lot of great programming on Fuel. You guys know how well our Prelims Live work on Spike, so we’re going to be working to build Fuel much in the way we did Spike.”
Current Fox-UFC TV Deal is the Foundation
White and the other participants in Thursday’s announcement mentioned several times that, while this marks the foundation of the seven-year agreement between the UFC and Fox, it is only the beginning.
All parties involved said that with the official announcement, now they can get down to brass tacks and plan for their partnership to grow and evolve over the years.