UFC/FOX Sports Deal Done: TUF to Go Live, First Event Planned for November

Matt JuulContributor IIIAugust 18, 2011

The deal is done.

FOX Sports Media Group held a press conference this afternoon announcing their newly minted, seven-year deal with the UFC.

On hand for the conference were FOX Sports Media Group Chairman David Hill, co-presidents Eric Shanks & Randy Freer, FX President John Landgraf, UFC president Dana White, and UFC Chairman and CEO Lorenzo Fertitta.

"This was it for me. This is what I always wanted," White said. "This is the pinnacle for us... to get a deal with FOX."

White also stated that, "this partnership will be amazing and will bring the sport to the next level."

The deal plans to bring four major events to the main FOX network, as well as 32 live fights and two runs of "The Ultimate Fighter" a year to the FX network.  Plans also include to bring pre- and post-fight coverage, as well as other UFC programming, to Fuel TV.

One of the biggest changes, however, is to the format of the promotion's reality show, "The Ultimate Fighter".

"'The Ultimate Fighter' will be live on FX," says White, with plans to rebrand the show as "The Ultimate Fighter Live".

The show will be shot over 13 weeks, with each episode edited the week of, culminating with live fights each week.

Also, the coaches, who face off against each other at the end of each season, will have their training camps followed alongside their stint on the reality show.

But the biggest change—fans will get to vote on who fights.

"This is revolutionary television right here," said White who also promises to show the "raw, live aftermath" after each bout as well.

UFC Chairman and CEO Lorenzo Fertitta loves the new concept and praised the FX network for being "edgy". FX President John Landgraf is also impressed with the deal, saying that FX can now "stand toe to toe with anybody".

Landgraf commented that the only thing missing from FX was live sports, programming that networks such as USA regularly offer.  He went on to say that "the UFC on FX will finally put us on a level playing field with all of our competitors".

The deal to bring the UFC to FOX has actually been a long time in the making.  The first live UFC event ever, UFC 37.5, was actually broadcast by FOX Sports Net's "The Best Damn Sports Show Period" in 2002.

In other countries, FOX and the UFC have partnered up before to bring events to places such as Australia.

Ever since, the UFC has been trying to get a deal done with the FOX Sports Media Group in the US.

At first, chairman David Hill was not entirely convinced that this "little niche sport" could stay viable.  But after watching it grow over the last ten years, he's changed his mind and called the UFC "the ultimate 3-D experience."

"It was that program, watching that show," Hill said, commenting on how "The Ultimate Fighter" changed his perception of MMA.

Other major changes are also planned now that the deal is announced, including alterations to the UFC's pay per view production.

"It's going away," White said with regards to the UFC's infamous gladiator opening.  "The look of pay per view, show open, graphics... everything will have a different feel with it," he said.

Commenting on their production, Hill said that FOX would not try alter the way the UFC does business praising their production as "first class."

Joking with Hill, White also promised, "no speedo fights."

The first live event scheduled to be broadcast on FOX will be a yet to be named event in Anaheim, Calif. on Saturday, Nov. 12 at 9 p.m. EST.  

Coincidentally, the event will be held the same night as current boxing superstar Manny Pacquiao's next fight against Juan Marquez.

Now that the fastest growing sport has partnered with one of the biggest sports broadcasting companies, ratings are expected to go through the roof for the UFC.

"We haven't set a true expectation," Shanks said, but he promised to make it "as big as possible".

What sealed the deal for the FOX brass was the UFC's ability to hone in on the 18-34 male demographic.  Hill said that this is the most important demographic for sports because "they are always wavering" and keeping their attention as they and their kids grow with the sport is imperative.

Hill went on to say that "what's going to happen over the next two or three years, no one can predict."

White does promise that the "FOX deal will take it to a whole new level."

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