Story of the Week: UFC to host four fight cards in less than a 20 day period to kick off Fox Sports 1 debut
One thing's certain when it comes to the UFC's upcoming migration from its current broadcast homes FX and Fuel to Fox Sports 1: they're coming out of the gate running hard.
The UFC will be a big part of the nascent networks' debut, with seven and a half consecutive hours of live fights from Boston's TD Garden slotted for its launch on Saturday, August 17th. This gargantuan programing block will be divided into two shows: "FOX UFC Saturday Prelims" beginning at 3:30 p.m. and the premiere of "FOX UFC Saturday" in the 8-11 p.m. time slot.
Then on August 28th, just 10 days later, the UFC kicks off what will be a regular Wednesday night presence on Fox Sports 1 with the debut of "FOX UFC Wednesday" from Indianapolis' Bankers Life Field House. That weekend the UFC will head to Milwaukee's Bradley Center for the UFC 164 pay per view, with prelims airing on Fox Sports 1. Finally, the whirlwind schedule wraps up with the second installment of FOX UFC Wednesday, this time emanating from Brasilia, Brazil and serving as the lead-in to the premiere of The Ultimate Fighter: Team Rousey vs. Team Zingano.
This move to FOX Sports 1 potentially represents a major shift in how the UFC presents itself on television. As the two live events in as many weeks indicate, the plan is for Wednesday nights on FOX Sports 1 to be centered around the UFC. In addition to first run fight cards running on a frequent basis, both the news program UFC Tonight and TUF will now make their home on Wednesdays as well. While it still remains unclear just how often the UFC plan to run FOX UFC Wednesday shows during the months between seasons of TUF, it appears these cards will air with a degree of frequency heretofore unmatched by any other series of free UFC live events.
The regular FOX UFC Wednesday shows and the occasional FOX UFC Saturday shows will replace both the "UFC on FX" and "UFC on FUEL TV" series. As a result first run UFC programing will be a thing of the past on Fuel after it becomes Fox Sports 2, outside of perhaps the occasional preliminary card. Quarterly Saturday night events on FOX will continue as normal.
Like with any major change, there are potential risks and rewards with this move. Obviously the biggest downside for the UFC will be the fact that FOX Sports 1 is a startup that will be available in almost 10 million less homes than FX. Consequently, it seems a given viewership will suffer at first. However, if FOX is successful in getting the new network established in a timely manner it would ostensibly be a huge positive for the UFC in that they will have a centralized home base on a strong network geared towards sports fans, rather than splitting time between the drama-heavy FX and the relatively obscure FUEL.
UFC 159 nets the UFC's second highest PPV buyrate of the year at somewhere between 520,000 and 550,000 buys
After months of controversy, it turns out the decision to slot Chael Sonnen as Jon Jones' challenger for the UFC light heavyweight title was a success.
According to a report by Dave Meltzer on MMAFighting.com, UFC 159, featuring the main event of Jones/Sonnen, ended up netting somewhere between 520,000 and 550,000 buys. This makes it UFC's second most purchased PPV of the year so far.
One might think it would be difficult to spin a number like this as a failure, but that's just what critics of the Jones/Sonnen match such as Thomas Rios and Tim Marchman did when they took to Twitter and used the buyrate to justify their staunch opposition to Sonnen getting a title shot.
Now, I've got nothing against either Rios or Marchman, but it certainly appears they are both bending over backwards to interpret the UFC 159 buyrate in a manner that reinforces their bias against Sonnen rather than objectively looking at the facts.
If you take out the aberrantly high buyrate for UFC 145, which drew 700,000 buys on the strength of the rivalry between Jones and Rashad Evans rather than on Jones' star power alone, Jones' main event buyrate average heading into UFC 159 was 485,000 buys, which is below what Jones and Sonnen drew together.
Whats' more, Jones' drawing power was hurt after the UFC 151 debacle and Dana White's subsequent vilifying of him in the press. This led to the lowest buyrate of Jones' reign as champion when he and opponent Vitor Belfort drew 450,000 buys at UFC 152.
UFC 159 netting 100,000 buys more than Jones' last title defense may not lend credence to Sonnen's facetious claims of being the biggest draw in the business, but it still represents a significant increase in revenue for the UFC. To paint that as anything but a success is either intellectually dishonest or a sign one doesn't understand the most fundamental concern in the fight business is drawing money.
He said/she said battle rages between Bellator and Eddie Alvarez
The ongoing legal saga between Bellator and its former lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez heated up considerably this week when Alvarez dished on heretofore unmentioned particulars of their dispute. This in turn caused Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney to blow his stack in a pair of interviews with both MMAFighting.com and MMAJunkie.com.
Rebney took exception to Alvarez's claims he was merely a "grunt" doing the bidding of Bellator and Spike TV parent company Viacom and disputed Alvarez's accusations of malfeasance in Bellator's handling of their contract offer to him.
At issue was a bit of language in the first contract Bellator sent Alvarez during the matching period stipulated by his original deal with the company. The contract, dated October 30th, 2012, only offered to match "the material terms" of an offer made by the UFC.
At Alvarez's legal counsel's behest the language was changed on November 1st, 2012 to omit the word "material" from the phrase and thus make it inclusive of non-material terms as well. This was the version of the contract Alvarez signed.
The reason this distinction is important is because the latter wording would imply Bellator would be obliged to put up an offer that accounted for the massive amount of money Alvarez would lose by signing with Belllator and not fighting on a PPV headlined by Georges St. Pierre, as the UFC originally offered.
Considering that the UFC show in question, UFC 157 headlined by GSP vs. Nick Diaz, ended up doing 900,000 buys, Alvarez would have made $1.35 million in one night given the PPV points Zuffa offered him had Bellator allowed him to sign with the UFC.
Judging from both Alvarez and Rebney's increasingly antagonistic tone it appears this case is headed down the road to a trial, which as Rebney admits, will likely be an arduous process for both sides.