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Focus for UFC shifts to more live, Friday night TV content on Fox for 7 years

By Zach Arnold | August 18, 2011

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Tomas Rios: “People, a major network has made a multi-year, multi-platform, big money commitment to the UFC. This is the biggest MMA story ever.”

Fascinating that ESPN has not discussed at all (either in TV reporting or their newsticker) UFC moving from Spike to FX/Fox family. Relations between ESPN & Fox are not as competitive as they once were, especially given NBC & Comcast as one unit now as the major competitor for programming (and Yahoo Sports as the top online sports reporting hub). At least ESPN put up a report on their web site.

The Ultimate Fighter will be more interactive in terms of airing live fights and taping footage from the past week prior to said fights airing. Friday night on FX will basically be UFC’s cable footprint. I’m a bit skeptical about Friday nights working out for them as opposed to Wednesdays or Thursdays.

Thankfully, the Gladiator graphic UFC has used forever is going the way of the do-do bird. As I predicted, not many changes at all to the UFC production layout (including their announce team).

Sports Business Journal says that Fox is paying UFC about $100 million dollars a year. The majority of UFC’s programming will air on cable channel FX, with four network television specials airing live each year on Fox terrestrial. Fox executives seem to think that they have found a real growth play here.

Luke Thomas: “UFC source tells me new Fox deal does NOT affect online distribution deals to Roku, Yahoo!, XBox or UStream. Nothing changes.”

Both Loretta Hunt & Josh Gross were at the press conference and credentialed. Loretta says that she shook Dana White’s hand. Make of that what you will.

An interesting question/premise being debated yesterday on Twitter about this new deal with Fox — will Fox force UFC management & employees to change their behavior (i.e. Rampage ‘motorboating’ & Joe Rogan’s comments about Maggie Hendricks) or will the status quo for behavior remain? I’m in the minority in stating that absolutely nothing will change from a behavioral standpoint. If Joe Rogan can come back to network TV (NBC) for a new series run of Fear Factor after the online kerfuffle he got into a few months ago, I don’t see how or why Fox is going to make him change (business reasons or not).

What was fascinating to see during the press conference was the reaction from Fox suits towards UFC’s production values. They seriously will allow Zuffa to produce shows as they see fit. When Fuji TV backed PRIDE, Fuji TV brought all of their resources and production team to the table. If Fox is going to allow UFC to produce shows the want they want to and pay them nearly $100 million USD a year, that’s a sweet development for UFC.

Topics: Media, MMA, UFC, Zach Arnold | 44 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

44 Responses to “Focus for UFC shifts to more live, Friday night TV content on Fox for 7 years”

  1. Brad Wharton says:

    Here in the UK this deal means nothing to us directly, so there is literally no talk save for the hardest of hardcore fans musing on what it will mean ‘for the business’.

    With that said, I expect the general apathy amongst MMA fans (or at least those who post on message boards/forums/twitter) is down to the fact that they’re mostly net-savvy when it comes to watching live shows. If they can’t afford the PPV, or they don’t have Versus on their TV package, they’ll find the shows online. All this deal means to them is that they’ll be able to switch on their TV to watch the UFC instead of switching on their computer.

  2. Mike Lewis says:

    Where is the apathy? On every mma site and mma forum this is the top story garnering hundreds of comments. I haven’t noticed any apathy at all but I have noticed alot of excitement online

  3. Kelvin Hunt says:

    In regards to behavior..I agree everything will remain the same..I’ve read from different places that people will expect Dana White to change his tune with how he talks to reporters…my question would be…when has Dana White cursed or said something outrageous to anyone other than the ones he KNOWS he can do it with?

    Zach, how do you gather that fans have apathy? More than likely, casual fans have no idea it’s happening or what it means for the UFC to be on a network like FOX…so that’s why there would be a shrug of the shoulders if that’s happening IMO.

  4. 45 Huddle says:

    So is this through FOX’s entertainment division like CBS handled MMA? Or is this FOX Sports Division?

    If it’s the sports division, then it’s a huge step in the right direction. SpikeTV treated MMA like entertainment as well. This is really the last step needed in making the UFC legitimate.

    I’m super excited for what’s ahead. Hopefully they do the pre and post fight shows like Versus had. I thought they really added to the program.

    2012 & Beyond = The Sports Era????

    On a side note…. Did MMA Supremacy go from being a troll to trying to report legit MMA News? It wouldn’t be the first time this has happened.

    • 45 Huddle says:

      And Brock is coming back.

      I say make his return fight for FOX the off weekend between the semifinals and the Super Bowl.

      It would also make a great lead-in to the next Saturday’s PPV…

      The timing couldn’t be more perfect.

      Jones/Evans for that PPV….

    • Jamie Penick says:

      Sports division is handling this, which should make everyone very happy.

  5. 45 Huddle says:

    Wow, this press conference shows that FOX is putting some serious power behind this.

    This is huge.

    • AKH says:

      HUGE. It just hit me watching it press conference intro (nice stage fright there Joe Rogan, lol), this thing is now finally mainstream. Wow.

  6. 45 Huddle says:

    32 Live fights a year…. I have to assume it’s including the prelim show.

    He also said live fights on Friday night…. So that might be a change….

    Friday is better for me. Saturday is good too. Sundays isn’t good like it was on Versus.

    FUEL will have pre and post fight stuff on that network.

    • 45 Huddle says:

      TUF will be LIVE on FX…. Not sure how that is going to work….

      • 45 Huddle says:

        BE is reporting that the first live show on FOX will be Nov 12th. Didn’t hear that at the press conference but it sounds legit….

        • 45 Huddle says:

          32 live shows includes TUF for FX.

          24 Live TUF Fights.

          6 Fight Nights

          2 TUF Finals

          And then on top of that is 4 FOX shows.

          And everything is looking to be on Friday nights except for the FOX shows. And the 1st FOX show is going against the Pacquiao fight on PPV.

          The big negative here is that the prelim show is on FUEL. So is the pre and post fight shows. And those are not in HD and are typically a 2nd tier cable channel.

        • 45 Huddle says:

          It also sounds like PPV caliber events will be on FOX. White said that the shows won’t automatically be title fights but they will be big fights.

        • 45 Huddle says:

          The FOX big wig was asked if the $90 million was correct and he straight up said he never discusses money for this.

        • 45 Huddle says:

          Now that I think about it…. The Nov 12th date is likely the weekend after the World Series is over, which means Zuffa is likely to get a lot of advertising during the World Series.

        • 45 Huddle says:

          80% overlap between UFC fans and people who watch FX….

          Looks like FOX is putting some serious muscle behind this and treating it like a real sport. That’s everything this sport deserves.

          Overall, I’m happy with this announcement. It won’t help reduce my cable bill (due to FUEL)…. But it’s still great…

        • 45 Huddle says:

          The only next logical step is that if the UFC can become big enough on FOX…. That they could go away from the PPV model.

          I don’t see that happening…. But that is the only next logical bigger step for the sport. Besides that….. This is as big as it gets….

        • edub says:

          If (big “if” which I don’t think will happen) the UFC goes away from PPV, then I think PPV as a whole will begin a process of dying off slowly.

        • Meatspin says:

          Actually the big wig said “I wish” right away then said they don’t discuss terms of contracts. Might be implying that they paid more than $90 million.

        • 45 Huddle says:

          So what’s going to be the main event for the first FOX show? Somebody on the UG suggested Guida/Henderson on the undercard. I think that’s a great fight to put on there.


          I agree.

        • edub says:

          I don’t know if Mitrione-Kongo has a date yet, but that fight would also be great for the card. GSP-Diaz?

          Probably gonna want to keep Fitch away though.

          I’m really excited to see if they start incorporating some NFL players and analysts into the news shows, and interviews. Jay Glazer will have a spot somewhere.

        • Light23 says:

          I think the reporter said it was $90mil over the course of the whole thing (mistakenly), which is what the FOX honcho was saying “I wish” too.

          Press conference seemed huge. There’s a big difference between EliteXC being on CBS, and a well oiled machine like the UFC having FOX put some muscle behind them. For seven years.

          Seems like FOX want this thing to explode.

  7. Stel says:

    running too many uncle fester photos for my taste…

  8. Dukes says:


    How much do you think it bothered Dana that both Josh Gross AND Lorretta Hunt were able to get credentials and ask them questions?!

  9. IceMuncher says:

    I’m really curious to see the new intro and presentation that Dana said they were going to do. The UFC is going to be getting the bigtime professional treatment shortly.

    I like where they’re going with the new TUF format, namely letting the fans vote for what fights they want to see next. Audience participation should help bring in more fan interest. Live fights won’t hurt either.

    Needless to say, this should be huge step in the right direction for the UFC. The next year is going to be very interesting.

  10. Darkmader says:

    One of the other big issues was that the UFC will produce the events like they always do, with Fox’s input a little bit of course but they basically said the UFC knows what they’re doing for 10 years now. I wonder if that was one of the decisions of the deal. Meaning Rogan/Goldberg will still announce and things will pretty much stay the same except for new graphics etc… The Gladiator intro is finally gone too.

    7 years is pretty extreme. I only caught the last portion of the feed but I wonder if there is a buy out clause in effect if it flops in 3 years or so.

    With Lesnar back. I’m sure they want his ass training asap so on their first show on Nov 12 (against Paq too) they can promote the Dec 31st PPV card if he’s healthy enough to fight then. If it draws a huge rating and they stack the card with a GSP too look for a 1.5M+ PPV buys.

  11. 45 Huddle says:

    If this is the set number of shows the UFC will have for the next 7 or so years…. I think it fundamentally changes the structure of the UFC.

    1) The number of shows isn’t enough to have as big of a roster as they currently do. Especially if you consider that they want to add Flyweight.

    2) The need for them to keep Strikeforce for their non-top tier talent is even more important at this point. They will need someplace to give their young talent fights without taking up the filled UFC roster.

    • edub says:

      You gotta realize that they well still pump out the PPVs though. SO if its 6 shows on FX, 4 shows on Fox, and 10 PPVS thats 20 cards right there.

      A long way away from the “human cockfighting” days.

    • Jamie Penick says:

      I don’t think this is going to be a “set” structure, the Fox executives sounded like things were going to be a work in progress for awhile, and that it was a working relationship where things could be adjusted, added to, improved, etc. over time.

      • Kelvin Hunt says:

        Right Jamie…it’ll always be somewhat fluid because of other events taking place and Zuffa/FOX trying to figure out when the optimal time to have a show would be, etc.

      • RST says:

        “…a working relationship where things could be adjusted, added to, improved, etc. over time.”

        I got the same impression.

        I’m waiting for the eventual uproar by the parent associations, old people, fruitball peaceniks and religious weirdos and then Fox passively backing away from the relationship.

        (“We’re thinking 3:00 in the morning for your next fight night would be good for us.”)

        Which I won’t mind at all.

  12. Kelvin Hunt says:

    I was blown away with the feel of the press conference…FOX guys seemed like they REALLY wanna put some muscle behind Zuffa…and if they paid anything near 90 million a bet they will…the intro montage for the press conference was sweet…just made the sport seem real legit(not that it wasn’t)…stoked right now…

    I think the main event of the FOX show in November will be something along the lines of Tito Ortiz vs. Rich Franklin…yea…both coming off losses…but both are ‘names’ for casuals with history in the brand…but neither are huge PPV draws for the UFC either…

  13. Chris27 says:

    I love this deal except for one thing.

    I DONT HAVE FUEL, I have comcast and I dont get Fuel.

    WTF, just when we could see instead of Facebook fights maybe all prelims get aired on Fuel, they are talking about pre and post fights shows, I assume thats on Fuel, countdowns, unleashed shows and others on Fuel and I dont have Fuel.

    WTF. I’m been drooling over a UFC mag style weekly show, pre and post fights shows like Versus does, I want them for every event and now they are gonna do them but they will be on Fuel and I dont get it?

    Fuck me.

    • 45 Huddle says:

      Both my cable and phone company offer FUEL. The only problem is that it’s like a 2nd or 3rd tier station. Which means cable bill won’t be getting smaller anytime soon…..

    • Chromium says:

      Fuel is only going to have shoulder programming like their highlight shows, Best of Pride, and weigh-ins I presume. I’d be shocked if they ran any actual live events on the show except maybe some prelim fights.

  14. 45 Huddle says:

    Good updated article Zach. I have 5 pondering thoughts/questions….

    1) Friday? Friday? Friday? That’s typically the day the shows go to die on TV. At least on the networks for shows near their end that are losing viewers. How will it work out for Zuffa? The fact that nothing else is on Friday’s might actually benefit the UFC.

    2) How will this change the average journalists views on the UFC? Obviously ESPN will try to downplay this deal because it doesn’t benefit them. But I’m talking about the reporters. It’s hard for them to treat MMA like the ugly stepchild when it’s being promoted by FOX alongside the NFL, NASCAR, and MLB.

    3) What’s after TUF? This TUF LIVE concept will keep the show fresh for a few more years. It certainly won’t last the entire 7 years. But eventually that needs to end. Will we finally see a weekly UFC show when TUF is over? It seems like a 2 hour block on a weekly basis for FX would be a great longterm fit for the UFC. A great way to show live fights, build stars, and promote the PPV’s.

    4) Dana White is saying that they will have to hire on more commentators for the content they are providing. That Rogan & Goldberg just won’t be able to do everything. Who will they hire? Will Helwani make the leap? Should be interesting to see the UFC go from it’s bread and butter…. Gladiator start and Rogan/Goldie…. To have to branch out so much now. It feels so legit….

    5) FUEL???? Will it eventually turn into the UFC Channel? Is some of the content from the UFC (unleashed, prelims) a step back from SpikeTV and that was the concessions they had to make in order to get this better deal? I like the fact that they will be having pre and post shows on FUEL just like Versus had. Also, are they going to show the entire prelim card? I would love to see it happen.

  15. Chromium says:

    Some thoughts:

    1) Rampage Jackson “motorboating” Karyn Bryant was blown way the fuck out of proportion as he didn’t actually “motorboat” her, just mimicked the gesture while ironically being self-deprecating about his own behavior towards some female journalists. Naturally every website pounced on this regardless to make a giant deal out of it.

    2) Friday is second only to Saturday as far as bad tv nights go (although the UFC has done just fine on Saturdays), but this is FX and they have higher ratings expectations on average than Spike does, so Friday does make sense. Lower expectations on Fridays. They are not going to move one of their high-end dramas for TUF.

    3) Interactive match-ups sounds cool and all, but fighters being sequestered for 12 straight weeks instead of 6? That’s going to create some problems, especially with dudes who might get eliminated the very first week or two. I hope they relax some of the rules on isolation if they do it this way. This isn’t a game show, it’s a competition for roster spots. They should be allowed weekly phone calls or whatever and allowed to go out clubbing some or whatever.

    Also, is The Ultimate Fighter Finale going to take place one week after the end of the show? So the finalists won’t even get real training camps (or anyone else who gets a spot on the show)?

    What about the coaches, are they going to have to do their training camps concurrently with the show? That’s gonna be hard on them too.

    • Chromium says:

      5) FUEL???? Will it eventually turn into the UFC Channel?

      No. I thought we\’d been through this already. The idea of a \”UFC channel\” is some crackpipe bullshit.

      Is some of the content from the UFC (unleashed, prelims) a step back from SpikeTV and that was the concessions they had to make in order to get this better deal?

      The overall deal is tremendously superior to what they had with Spike + Versus. Plus we\’ll probably get weigh-ins and prefight and postfight shows on Fuel now too.

      I like the fact that they will be having pre and post shows on FUEL just like Versus had. Also, are they going to show the entire prelim card? I would love to see it happen.

      I would much prefer to watch prelims on Facebook but that may just be me.

      • Kelvin Hunt says:

        Yea…watching prelims on FB is just you…lol…I’d LOVE for all of them to be on Fuel…I tweeted that question to Dana…of course he didn’t reply…which probably means it’s biz as usual..

  16. EJ says:

    “What was fascinating to see during the press conference was the reaction from Fox suits towards UFC’s production values. They seriously will allow Zuffa to produce shows as they see fit. When Fuji TV backed PRIDE, Fuji TV brought all of their resources and production team to the table. If Fox is going to allow UFC to produce shows the want they want to and pay them nearly $100 million USD a year, that’s a sweet development for UFC.”

    That’s not really surprising Dana pulled out of the HBO deal because of production control. He made it clear they would only sign a deal where they could control their product and how it was shown and produced. I’m sure Fox will have some input but the UFC knows what they are doing the last thing they need is people messing with that product.

    Also something interesting I read is that the first UFC on Fox show is going to be a 1 hour special from 9 to 10 PM. Apparently they aren’t taking any chances going up against the Pacman fight, so they will put on a whole card but with only 2 main card fights.

    That’s a very interesting move and it shows that the UFC on Fox will is already going to produce something different. It should also be interesting to see what 2 fights the UFC can come up with to air, i’m thinking Guida vs. Henderson will be 1 of them. Maybe Machida vs. Davis could be the other one both of those would be good fights to show.

  17. lulzy says:

    Quoting Rios makes your entire blog lose credibility.

    Also a little uncomfortable with the constant Joe Rogan hate. Jealousy I guess.

    • Chuck says:

      Who’s jealous? Joe Rogan was being a douchebag, and Zach Arnold (amongst others) called him out for it. That’s as stupid of an accusation I’ve heard…

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