Throw ESPN into the hat of organizations with plans to develop a reality show based on mixed martial arts.
According to Dave Meltzer of Yahoo! Sports, the network is currently “making moves” to get into MMA.
The plans appear to involve a reality show that would be taped during the spring, looking at using featherweight, lightweight and middleweight fighters. No other details of the show are available, other then a loose idea of modeling it after “The Contender,” the boxing show the network recently dropped.
According to the report, ESPN is intently looking at many of the former EliteXC fighters, however, with their status still up in the air, nothing has obviously been finalized yet.
You might ask, well, why would established fighters forgo a contract with organizations such as the UFC or Affliction with real fights for a reality show? Sure, exposure is one reason, however, for the short-term benefit of the fighters, it looks like ESPN is willing to open their wallets wider than the promotions are (well, at least the UFC).
Industry sources have stated ESPN has offered name fighters both signing bonuses and per-fight guarantees that would be above industry standards for fighters of their caliber.
It certainly has to be considered a positive sign that the leading sports network is further embracing the sport. Hopefully, it’s a sign of more to come.
In the meantime, it will definitely be interesting to see what ESPN comes up with, and how the UFC reacts to this news. Hopefully, ESPN’s creative team can come up with something more compelling than taping a bunch of drunken idiots locked up in a house. We’ll keep you posted.
[UPDATE 11/03/08 9:08PM ET] – It appears Meltzer has updated his story with some good news if you have ESPN Deportes and speak Spanish, and bad news if you don’t. Apparently, this show isn’t for the English versions of ESPN.
In an official statement, ESPN’s communications department stated “ESPN is not developing any MMA programming on our English-language networks. However, ESPN Deportes is in the early development stages of an MMA program.”
Well, if you have the channel, you can at least understand the fights.
Sherdog.com has the details on what appears to be the same news Meltzer is talking about.
Promotional newcomer Bellator Fighting Championships has secured a broadcast deal with ESPN Deportes to begin airing MMA events as early as April 2009, numerous sources have confirmed to Sherdog.com.
Sources have told Sherdog.com that the proposed 12-week fight series will center around four eight-man tournaments utilizing the 145-, 155-, 170- and 185-pound divisions. Non-tournament bouts will also be featured. It is not clear if the events will run live or on tape delay. Multiple locations across the nation are being considered for the 12-week shoot, sources have told Sherdog.com.
Jorge Masvidal and Eddie Alvarez were named as fighters that have been approached for the show.