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Dana White announces UFC partnership with ESPN in the UK

espn_logoThe mixed martial arts fan base in England took a collective gasp in June of 2009 when the UFC announced the end of its previous agreement with Setanta Sports to broadcast the events throughout the United Kingdom.

Setanta had aired the live events in the UK since January of 2008 before the two parties split ways just prior to the highly anticipated UFC 100 event.

According to UFC President Dana White during the UFC press conference held earlier this afternoon, the British and Irish communities may now feel free to breathe a collective sigh of relief as the UFC has inked a three year deal with ESPN to air the future events live in the UK.

“The UK fans were very upset because the Setanta deal fell apart right before UFC 100,” began White. “We tried everything we could. We were in a scramble trying to get this TV deal fixed. We did the best we could do for them, and now we’ve signed a deal with ESPN in the UK. It’s a three year deal, and ESPN is a brand-new network in the UK. It launches August 13, and it’s going to start with UFC 101. It’s going to be free in August for the English and Irish fans.”

However, Dana refused to give very many details in regards to recent reports that the UFC was close to finalizing a deal with ESPN for the events to be broadcast in the states, stating only, “We’ve always been talking to networks, we’re always talking to networks. I’m confident. I’m very confident that we’re going to get a network deal, and I’ve always said, once we get the right offer we will be on network television. We haven’t had the right offer yet.”

  • fanoftna33 says:

    So espn is going to charge them after August? I hope they do get a deal done here in the ststes with espn, I listen to them every morning and would like to hear some mma talk.

  • Cory Brady says:

    I was under the understanding that it will continue to air for free on ESPN in the UK. When listening to the conference it seems as if Dana implies that it will actually commence in August, not that they will charge in the future. Hope that helps

  • I would love to get something like Friday Night Fights on ESPN here in the US. The UFC would have no problem getting enough up and comming talent in areas like Florida and LA and having 3 or 4 fights every Friday at a local venue and televise it. Be a great way to help the casual fan become connected with new fighters and watch them trough their entire career. Kind of like how boxing used to be.

  • JTM says:

    It’s good that MMA has found a permamnent home in the UK after Setanta went into administration but will this have wider implications in the US? My guess is, probably. I’d expect the UFC to try and push MMA coverage on ESPN adn try to get it more widely reported.

  • dpk says:

    I agree with FightTrends, i would love to see a Friday night fights type of weekly show, with UFC/WEC fights. It would be a great platform for young and upcoming talent. I also imagine that they could put a nice show on ESPN classic between the UFC and Pride video libraries. It won’t happen until UFC’s current deal with SPIKE is up, because SPIKE has exclusive cable TV rights in the US. I’m thinking that a network deal with ABC will happen first. Any deal with ESPN is a good deal at this point, they can put a lot of publicity muscle behind MMA with casual sports fans.

  • ozz_the_powerful says:

    I agree with dpk on this, as far as NETWORK television goes. Yes, the UFC signed an exclusive deal with Spike for cable, but it shouldn’t inhibit them from network television. CBS bombed with Elite XC, which, IMHO was one of the worst representations of MMA EVER. Quite embarrassing as a fan, I would think. I’d like the UFC’s chances with NBC better, myself.

    At this point in time, I just can’t see UFC on ABC due to the fact that, guess who owns them? The Walt Disney Corporation. They are very unforgiving to violence, language, and (real) blood.

    NBC is a much more viable and lucrative direction to go.

    Let’s put it this way– NBC is available in an estimated 112 million households, 98.6% of those with televisions. NBC has 10 owned-and-operated stations and nearly 200 affiliates in the United States and its territories.

    BAM, POW!!!

  • fanoftna33 says:

    I hope they dont go to cbs, my ddirect tv wont allow me that chanel.

  • fanoftna33 says:

    Fight Trends good point that is something I brought up a few days ago, we would be able to see a lot of up and coming fighters without throwing them to the top talent to soon( see Gonzaga padding his record after every loss with a newcomer) The fighters would be hungary for the wins ala Griffen vs Bonner and we get a better way to see our sport more often.

  • hindsightufuk says:

    i dont know the specifics, but here in the UK, i dont anyone who has the ESPN package. As far as i can tell, even if you have the extra ridiculous cable/satelite deals (£40-£50 per month ($60ish)), you still have to pay extra to get ESPN. At the minute i pay around £25.0 for my cable deal, i think i would need to pay around £12 more just to get ESPN. thats a lot for a channel i will never watch except for UFC. At least on Setanta they used to show the Its Showtime kickboxing events from Amsterdam, plus a shit load of boxing. I can see no point in the UFC choosing ESPN just to show events in the UK. there must some other reason to choosing ESPN. It really doesnt benefit anyone over here. If the UFC genuinely thought this was a good idea for the UK, they clearly didnt have anyone IN the UK doing any market research. There has to be a bigger picture


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