Betcha didn’t see this coming.
Versus’ Ariel Helwani outlined their shiny new broadcast deal with Zuffa this morning, and it came with a detail no one expected.
As part of VERSUS’ renewal deal, the network will air seven live WEC fights and two live UFC events in 2010, marking the first time that live UFC events will air on a national sports cable network. Also included in the renewal deal are digital media rights, giving VERSUS.com the ability to air one non-televised fight and behind-the-scenes footage from each live WEC Event.
Details regarding when the first live UFC event will air on the network will be announced in the near future.
It was believed that Spike owned the exclusive cable rights to the UFC, so this is definitely unexpected. Despite all the talk about merging the WEC with the UFC or at least transitioning its fighters over, which Dana White started by the way, Zuffa is going to make another run of it with the WEC. Except this time, they’re going to leverage the UFC brand to attract more viewers to Versus and ultimately the WEC.
That’s my impression of it anyhow, but MMA Payout also has some interesting theories.
It’s essentially an exploratory agreement that will allow Comcast to become more familiar with the property, and it’ll definitely add more fuel to the speculation that the UFC could be part of any new Comcast-NBCU sports network that comes out of the pending merger acquisition.
This agreement may also mean that Dana White’s dealings in Los Angeles (a secondary base for ESPN’s operations) have come to an impasse of sorts. However, it could also put some pressure on ESPN to meet some concessions regarding rights fees for the UFC.
The new Spike deal UFC signed gave them the rights to a limited number of events per year that they could put on a rival cable station, which at one point the hope was for those shows to be sold to ESPN.