The other big rumor to hit the net in recent days besides Fedor Emelianenko signing with the UFC is a deal between the UFC and ABC-ESPN to broadcast live events on network television.
According to a report from The Sun (if they can be believed), a similar deal with ESPN is apparently close to being finalized, just not in North America. Instead, ESPN would become the UFC’s new broadcast partner in the UK after they launch their UK channel on August 3.
The American TV giant – owned by Disney – are understood to have secured the rights to broadcast the MMA promotion’s biggest events, starting with UFC 101 next month.
We understand a deal has been agreed between the two parties and UFC president Dana White has called a press conference on Friday to announce the news.
ESPN launch their UK channel on August 3 and their cameras will be at the Philadelphia Wachovia Centre to shoot UFC 101 on August 8.
Our ESPN source said: “We’re on the brink of having lots to share, just waiting for the ink to dry on a couple of things.”
UFC refused to confirm a deal had been completed but a source close to the discussions did say: “You’ve got good ears” when we asked for a comment after relaying our information to them.
In case you haven’t heard, Friday is a big day as Dana White will be holding a press conference to announce “a lot of crazy things” as he put it last Friday on ESPN 1100. He mentioned on that radio show he was going out of the country until Thursday, so such a deal would certainly jive with his travel plans. If true, it may not be the UFC on live network television and ESPN in the US, but at least there would be a relationship there to build off of if you want to look at it on the bright side.
Update: The bright side might coming sooner than expected. Carmichael Dave just said on his KHTK radio show that he’s hearing from multiple sources that the UFC is not only reaching a deal with ESPN for the UK, but also a deal with ABC-ESPN to broadcast UFC events on network television. This would be announced Friday if true. He stressed that he was not ready to report this as fact, only to pass along what he’s hearing. So for now it’s still a rumor, but a rumor that just picked up a ton of steam.
Update 2: Great news UK fans. ESPN has sent out a press release announcing their UK deal with the UFC.
ESPN, the worldwide leader in sports, is the new home of the UFC(R) in the UK and Ireland, the Ultimate Fighting Championship(R) organisation and ESPN announced today.
ESPN will screen all UFC events live, starting with the explosive UFC 101: DECLARATION on Saturday August 8 and followed on August 22 by UFC 102: COUTURE v NOGUEIRA.
UFC UK Division President Marshall Zelaznik said: “We are ecstatic to announce that ESPN is the new home of the UFC in the UK and Ireland. ESPN is one of the most trusted and respected brands in all of sports broadcasting, and we are thrilled to be working with them as they launch their new channel in the UK and Ireland.
“Over the last three years, the UFC has become as big a part of the sporting landscape in the British Isles as football and rugby, and for the worldwide leader in sports broadcasting came to us and we were able to reach an agreement so quickly is another testament that the UFC is an important part of the British sporting calendar.”
Guess we’ll have to wait till Friday to find out the ABC-ESPN network deal.