Has the UFC finally landed an elusive network television deal that fans have been clamoring for years? Well, nothing is official yet, but the reputable Sports Business Journal says they have.
Following rumors that Fox was the new frontrunner to land a major broadcasting deal with the UFC, the Sports Business Journal is reporting today that Fox and the UFC have agreed to a deal that would result in Fox airing up to four major events per year. Furthermore, most of the UFC programming that Spike TV and Versus currently airs including the smaller cards, The Ultimate Fighter and the UFC Unleashed type shows will now move to FX and Fuel TV.
In what would represent a major push into the mainstream for the UFC, Fox has agreed to a deal that will see the broadcast channel air as many as four MMA events per year, according to several sources. The multiyear deal would mark the first time the UFC will have consistent airtime on a broadcast network. Fox execs refused to comment on the deal, but sources with knowledge of the negotiations said bidding had gone as high as $90M per year. The Fox deal is believed to be for seven or eight years. As part of the deal, most of the weekly programming that UFC has on Versus and Spike TV will move to FX starting in January. That includes several fight cards, plus shows like the reality series “The Ultimate Fighter.” Fox-owned Fuel also will wind up with some UFC content. But rumors that Fox will rebrand Fuel as a UFC channel are not true, sources said.
According to the report, Spike passed on renewing their deal with the UFC mainly due to concerns over dwindling ratings with their shoulder programming (their “Unleashed”, “Countdown” and “Knockouts” shows). This news is already fueling rumors that Spike will fill the void with a cheaper Bellator deal, though that remains to be seen.
The news actually broke when Dana White was on a conference call for UFC 134. He refused to comment, stressing that “you guys will know when we have a TV deal.” So either the deal isn’t as done as the report makes it sound or they’re just not ready to make it official yet. Hopefully, we’ll find out soon.
Update: Heavy.com says they have confirmed the news with a Fox representative who wishes to remain anonymous.
Update: All signs are pointing to FOX and the UFC making the big announcement tomorrow in Los Angeles. Fox announced that they are holding a “major” press conference there at 1pm PT and word is several of the major MMA media outlets have been invited. Furthermore, Dana White is LA as we speak with Frankie Edgar and Georges St. Pierre and Rashad Evans are on their way if they’re not there already.