The Ultimate Fighting Championship earlier this week announced a landmark television deal that will see their programming spread across the airwaves of the Fox family of networks. The deal, which is for seven years, will put UFC programming in various forms on Fox, FX, and Fuel TV, at the minimum.
The mixed martial arts juggernaut will move its reality series, The Ultimate Fighter, from Spike TV to FX, with a complete revamp to a “jive-live” format. FX will also carry at least six live UFC events per year and Fox will carry four. Fuel TV will be a home for other UFC programming, including UFC Prelims Live.
The UFC, Fox, fighters, and fans rejoiced over the news on Thursday, but not everyone is as pleased. Spike TV, of course, lost a programming cornerstone for their target demographic, Men 18-34 years of age.
But it also appears that ESPN may not be too pleased with the arrangement, at least according to UFC president Dana White.
As is customary from the UFC exec, White took to his Twitter account late Friday night to take a shot at ESPN for cancelling an upcoming promotional interview, he says, due to the Fox deal.
“ESPN always hated us and now they hate us more now that we are on FOX. They canceled my (interview) next week for UFC Rio. (Expletive) ESPN,” he tweeted, before adding, “(Jim Rome) is the only good thing about ESPN.”
UFC Rio: Silva vs. Okami is an especially important event to the promotion. It marks the UFC’s return to Brazil for the first time in nearly 13 years. The promotion also sees it as a big step into the Latin American market that company officials have long coveted.
Mixed martial arts, and the UFC in particular, has crept into ESPN’s on-air programming over the past couple of years, after starting out as part of the sports media giant’s online offerings.
Mixed martial arts can sometimes be seen on SportsCenter and other ESPN news shows, and ESPN does have its own MMA magazine-style show in MMA Live, which is hosted by Jon Anik and often includes analysts such as UFC fighters Rashad Evans and Kenny Florian.
ESPN representatives were unavailable for comment at the time of publication.