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FOX Sports formally announced its new television deal with Ultimate Fighting Championship, marking a new era of MMA in America.The 7-year contract is reportedly worth close to $100 million a year, and will include up to four fights on a year on the main FOX Network (with dozens more on FX and other cable channels.)
After years of fighting for acceptance in the mainstream sports world, mixed martial arts will finally be broadcast live in prime time on one of the big four networks.
Even if it’s only four fights, that’s four more than boxing had this year. The “sweet science” has been completely shunted to pay-per-view and late nights on cable.
Meanwhile, MMA has gone the opposite way. Using pay-per-view to build its fan base and a reliable revenue stream, UFC has consolidated its power and influence over the last couple of years and now finds itself nearly on par with other major national sports, like auto racing, Olympic sports, and tennis.
(You ever notice that it’s only on broadcast networks during the major? And then only during the day?)
UFC’s first FOX night will November 12 – the same night as Manny Pacquiao’s next bout. We’ll see which one wins.
In a less than two decades, it’s gone from an outlaw sport that was ridiculed and often banned (it still is in New York State!) to a major mainstream enterprise. They will still save their best events for pay-per-view, but now they’ve got their chance to win over the unknowing and unconvinced – and hopefully get them to pay those expensive PPV prices.
The challenge now is to see if those people will watch … and like it.