Zuffa on Thursday struck a deal with Fox Sports Media Group that will thrust the UFC into the mainstream over the next seven years. Fox reportedly will pay out $700 million for the contract, which will keep the promotion on network television four times a year through 2018.
As part of the deal, which also includes mobile and web-based properties, The Ultimate Fighter reality show will move to the FX cable network and shoulder programming will be seen on FX and Fuel TV. TUF will run two seasons per calendar year and have a live fight in Friday night episodes on FX, which will feature a total of 32 nights of live fighting per year.
Below are the best of the quotes, compiled by Jason Kelly of MMADieHards.com, from the principals of the press conference, which included UFC president Dana White and CEO Lorenzo Fertitta, and Fox Sports Management Group president and co-COO Eric Shanks, FX president and GM John Landgraf, and Fox Sports Media Group chairman and CEO David Hill.
Hill talked about the roots of the deal:
“We first started talking to the UFC 10 years ago. Lorenzo told me then that what boxing was to your generation, UFC will be — and is — for the next generation. Sports in television is the ultimate democratic process. The people have to speak. Television can’t make a sport, it can only enhance it. They’ve taken it to a mainstream sport in 10 years. The culmination of this deal has very little to do with me, it’s more to do with Eric Shanks and Randy Freer believing in it. This is just the beginning. I can’t overemphasize the way this sport has grown in 10 years.
“My reservations were back in 2001, but then I saw what was happening. The key difference was boxing being one-dimensional and this show being three-dimensional. The Ultimate Fighter was more enjoyable on a visceral level than anything else. You get to know the athletes on an individual level. They’re entirely different than boxers I’ve known.”
White on the new format of The Ultimate Fighter, starting with the 15th season in Spring 2012:
“The ultimate fighter will now be live. The reality will be jive-live and the fight will be live. The two coaches who come into coach will also be there. When the coaches fight on Pay-Per-View it will all line up and it will all be live. This is revolutionary.
“Coming to Fox, we’re changing everything, including the Pay-Per-View. We’re making a fresh start. We’re making a change to The Ultimate Fighter. Like I said, this is revolutionary. What we want to do is take everything to the next level from Pay-Per-View to The Ultimate Fighter to everything that we produce.
White says it was Fox that was his first choice all along:
“I have to be totally honest when I say this is the biggest, this is what I always wanted. This was the pinnacle for us in the U.S. to get a deal with Fox. This partnership is gonna be amazing. This is gonna take the sport to the next level. This is a big day for this company and I’m proud to be sitting up here right now.”
White revealed the plan to use TUF to grow the Fox cable channels:
“Look at how well our prelims do, so we’re gonna be working to build Fuel and FX.
“The Ultimate Fighter created superstars and champions. The Ultimate Fighter will now be live. Where we used to go in and the guys would stay there for six weeks and be in the can and we’d release the show a month later, (now) everything will be shown live. The reality will have happened that week. The coaches will be doing their training camp while working on the show as well. All the fights and the finale will all line right up and be live. This is revolutionary television right here.”
White on the FX and Fuel TV outlets carrying shoulder programming:
“Me and my crew will run the production and they’ll have their guys do a pre-show and post-show.”
Hill on his about-face from negative MMA comments on the record as recently as 2008:
“We wouldn’t have done this if there wasn’t sponsors behind it. There may be one or two companies with a do not buy on it, but there are a hell of a lot more that have a do buy. We didn’t go into this with our fingers crossed. We knew what we were getting into.”
Shanks dug deep into the scope of the contract:
“This deal touches all aspects of the Fox Sports Media Group. Four shows on Fox and 32 shows a year on FX as well as two seasons of The Ultimate Fighter. Friday nights will belong to us. Pre- and post-fight shows for the network for all the Pay-Per-Views. We like to think of ourselves as the big-event network. These guys put on big events and it fits really well with our brand.
“This is really a partnership and there will be a lot of back-and-forth business.”
Fertitta reflected on how far the UFC has come since 2001:
“This is a really big day. Not only taking the UFC to the next level and taking the sport to the next level, this is really the icing on the cake.
“It’s going to touch every aspect of this company, and the excitement from the company for us is incredible. Everything is progression.
“It wasn’t just saying they wanted to be a part of this. We had every major media company and every major broadcaster. It wasn’t a one-horse race. This was just the right deal for the company at the right time.
“We’re taking the sport to the next level. It’s very exciting. As we sat down and talked many times over the last 10 years, it was really an easy decision. The fact is we’ve been in business with Fox for a long time. This is really just the icing on the cake. This culminated in a deal that’s not just a simple deal with a big fight on TV. We’re gonna touch every aspect of this company, which is gonna be great.”
Fertitta on the choice of not branding a UFC channel:
“I think a UFC channel would be successful. But we put on great fights, we’re in the business of putting on big fights. We’re not in the business of running a television station.
“You may not have championship fights on every Fox show, but there will be some. You can expect big fights.”
Landgraf on the budding relationship between FX and the UFC:
“Both UFC and FX have shown tremendous growth over the last 10 years. We’re no longer an emerging network, we’re established. Our ratings are up there with all the other networks on an entertainment business. Our competitors had professional sports to set them apart and now so do we. Dana and Lorenzo have come up with ideas that will revolutionize The Ultimate Fighter. Now the show’s gonna be shown over 13 week and each installment will be edited the week of and then we’ll have a live fight.
“We’re not an emerging network anymore, and UFC isn’t an emerging company anymore. UFC on FX will put us on an even playing level with all the others.
“I’m thrilled to have this program on our air.”