In a landmark deal this week, the Fox Sports Media Group reached a multi-year, multi-media rights agreement with Zuffa, LLC, owner of the Ultimate Fighting Championship® (UFC) brand.
The deal brings mixed martial arts to the same platform and network as the Super Bowl, World Series and NASCAR. It's a huge step forward for the sport, which had been airing primarily on SPIKE TV. The deal calls for four live events in prime time or late night each year on the FOX broadcast network, with the first live event airing Saturday, Nov. 12 at 9:00 PM ET.
There will be additional programming launching on other FOX networks starting in January 2012, which include live fights, pre and post shows, countdown shows, UFC Unleashed, UFC Primetime, the UFC Knockout series, Best of Pride and weigh-in specials.
UFC's signature show, The Ultimate Fighter also gets a makeover and new home. The weekly reality show debuts on FX in April 2012, with an all-new format. The plan is that FX will also broadcast an additional four to six live events over the course of the year. Additional events and programs will also be shown on the FOX-owned FUEL TV.
This isn't the network's first brush with UFC, FOX Sports Net broadcast the sport's non-pay-per-view event in 2002, just nine years after the UFC was founded in 1993. FOX also has a relationship with UFC in Latin America, Australia and Europe, but for the sport to be shown on FOX in the U.S. is a major victory for the sport indeed. The rise in popularity of the sport has been stunning, and coincides with the free-fall of interest in the sport of boxing.
If you're trying to learn more about the sport, or keep up with the latest news and analysis of UFC, the best guy to go to for this information is Dave Doyle of Yahoo! Sports. He's a local guy, working out of Salem, MA, and was really the first reporter to cover mixed martial arts for a major mainstream sports website. He used to work at The Boston Globe in the middle part of the last decade, and has also worked for CBS Sportsline and FOXSports.com. He's also definitely worth a follow on Twitter, as well. He's carved a career for himself out of his interest and passion for the sport, and it comes through in his coverage.
A few thoughts/news items to round things out this week:
- If you've been missing your Pete Sheppard fix, the former Big Show flashguy will be back on Patriots.com radio this season. The show returns on September 5th, and will be heard Tues-Thurs from 4:00 to 6:00PM.
- The 10th annual WEEI/NESN Jimmy Fund Radio-Telethon will take place at Fenway Park on Tuesday, Aug. 30 and Wednesday, Aug. 31 from 6 a.m. to midnight. This week it was announced that former Red Sox stars Mo Vaughn and John Valentin will be part of the event. Vaughn and Valentin will be interviewed on WEEI before the game and will throw out the first pitch during the Aug. 31 pre-game ceremony when the Boston Red Sox take on the New York Yankees.
- What is 98.5 thinking with their new promo for the Felger and Massarotti show? It consists of the duo screaming very angrily that the 'Patriot Way" is "condescending", "arrogant" and "insulting." Great to hear on the flagship station of the New England Patriots. When have you ever heard Bill Belichick talk about the 'Patriot Way?" How about never? Why? It's a media creation. Nice strawman, 98.5.
- Being Stanley Cup Champs has its perks. The Bruins will be featured on national broadcasts on NBC or VERSUS (to be renamed NBC Sports Network on January 2nd) 17 times in the upcoming season, including opening night, October 6th. Additionally, for those out-of-town, the Bruins will be on the NHL Network (US) 16 times during the regular season.