by Ivan Trembow
Although the announcement at the recent “Pride: Final Conflict 2005” event made it seem like Pride has a relationship with Fox Sports Net that is similar to the UFC’s relationship with Spike TV, that could not be further from the truth.
While the UFC is being paid a “rights fee” by Spike TV for every single episode of The Ultimate Fighter, UFC Unleashed, and UFC Ultimate Fight Night that is produced, the business nature of Pride’s relationship with FSN is the opposite. Pride’s agreement with FSN is simply that FSN is allowing Pride to buy one hour of programming space per month, in much the same way that an infomercial would have its air-time purchased. While the monthly Pride show will air on FSN in primetime (Sundays at 9:00 PM), it’s still the equivalent of an infomercial from a business standpoint.
Far more troubling to Pride executives, and to MMA fans in general, is the fact that Fox Sports Net continues to be very concerned about what it perceives as “excessive violence” in MMA fights. As was the case when FSN was airing old UFC fights, FSN has made it very clear that it is not interested in airing any significant amount of footage that involves a fighter being pounded on the ground, or anything else that FSN deems to be “excessively violent.”
Fox Sports Net’s policy has already reared its ugly head, as the first Pride broadcast that aired on FSN was significantly changed due to the network’s concerns about violence. Pride had planned to show Fedor Emelianenko’s fight with Gary Goodridge, in which Emelianenko immediately overwhelmed Goodridge in the stand-up and then pounded him on the ground, until the fight was stopped approximately 70 seconds after it began.
However, FSN deemed the Emelianenko vs. Goodridge fight to be “too violent” to air on its network, due to the brutal ground-and-pound. Pride had to replace that fight with a different Emelianenko fight, and they chose Emelianenko vs. Kazuyuki Fujita, which was apparently not deemed “too violent” by FSN.
Having to change which Fedor Emelianenko fight they included in their broadcast did not significantly alter the broadcast, but something else did. Pride wanted to establish that Vanderlei Silva is several levels above Chuck Liddell on the 205-pound food chain, and they wanted to do this by showing Quinton Jackson vs. Chuck Liddell (which Jackson dominated), followed by an airing of Vanderlei Silva’s first fight with Quinton Jackson (which Silva dominated).
While FSN had no problems with the content of the Jackson-Liddell fight, FSN deemed the first Silva-Jackson fight to be “too violent,” even though it didn’t have much ground-and-pound in it. FSN also deemed the second Silva-Jackson fight to be “too violent.” It’s not an easy task to find a Vanderlei Silva fight that isn’t a very violent fight, and Pride eventually had to settle for Vanderlei Silva’s 2003 fight with Kazushi Sakuraba, which FSN agreed to air because it was a stand-up fight that ended from one big punch, as opposed to a continuous flurry of knees and punches or anything else that may be deemed “excessively violent.”
It’s not yet known which fights Pride would like to air on its next monthly FSN broadcast, but the network continues to be very concerned about what it views as excessive violence in MMA fights. Unfortunately for all MMA fans, this is something that is not going to change unless FSN’s executives have a huge change in attitude.