After Spike TV Counter-Programming Tactics, UFC Pres Says, “I Owe You One”

June 30, 2011

Dana White at UFC 102

Dana White at UFC 102

All is fair in love and war… and television contract negotiations, evidently.

The Ultimate Fighting Championship’s current agreement with Spike TV – the network it has called its basic cable home since the launch of “The Ultimate Fighter” in 2005 – is nearing its end.

Mixed martial arts has become much more popular since that time, and the UFC, once teetering on the brink of extinction, has grown into a highly profitable company. That’s code for, there are many more broadcasting options now than there were six years ago, and the UFC is considering them all.

Spike and the UFC have been in negotiations, but as UFC president Dana White says, they are constantly “negotiating with everybody.” With that in mind, the negotiations with Spike recently ran into some turbulence when the network counter-programmed a live telecast of UFC on Versus 4 on the Versus network with previously recorded UFC programming.

“Negotiating is never fun,” White said after Thursday’s UFC 132 pre-fight press conference. “Negotiating is always, uh, even though you’re negotiating in good faith and stuff, you still get some kicks to the balls here and there.

“Plus, the Wall Street Journal came out and said all the things they said about our negotiations, so I see Spike’s side. That’s what I would do too, and you guys know I would do that.”

White was referring to a Wall Street Journal report earlier this month that stated the UFC was “in talks to buy control of NBCUniversal’s struggling G4 gaming network.” Speculation was that the UFC would then move “The Ultimate Fighter” reality series onto the G4 network, leaving Spike to consider other MMA programming options, such as Bellator Fighting Championships.

“What the Wall Street Journal put out and what people are saying, none of that is true,” said White. “People are out there speculating on what is going on. We have no deal with anybody.”

White doesn’t disagree with Spike’s counterprogramming tactics, but that doesn’t mean that their shot across his company’s bow will be ignored.

“I would do the same thing that they just did… (but) I owe you one Spike.”