| | Ufc 2010
By Dann Stupp, Contributing Writer
9:32 PM Sunday, December 20, 2009
As the Ultimate Fighting Championship closes the door on another milestone year, the world’s top mixed-martial-arts promotion already has laid the ground work for additional growth in 2010.
This past week, the UFC’s sister promotion, World Extreme Cagefighting, extended its broadcast deal with Versus. As a bit of a surprise, UFC officials confirmed two of its events also will air on the cable sports station next year.
With pay-per-view, its longtime Spike TV partnership and now the Versus deal, the UFC has never had a bigger TV audience. More importantly, though, the deal with Versus (owned by Comcast, which recently purchased NBC Universal) could open the door for the UFC to make its long-awaited network-television debut.
NBC has long been MMA-friendly. It previously aired highlights shows from Strikeforce, the UFC’s top rival, and will soon air similar programs for Bellator Fighting Championships, which begins airing live weekly shows on Fox Sports Net affiliates in April.
Could the UFC, though, ultimately become the first MMA promotion to air live events on the network?
“You never know,” UFC president Dana White said last week.
White and Co. previously held talks with HBO, CBS and ESPN about live show broadcasts, but the UFC refuses to cede control of its production (including its broadcast team of Joe Rogan and Cincinnati native/veteran sports broadcaster Mike Goldberg), and talks eventually broke down. NBC, though, could be the first to give White what he calls “the right deal.”
While TV revenue is the life blood of the UFC, the company pulls in additional millions through ticket sales. And nothing rakes in the dollars like a trip to a new market.
Once un-regulated or outright banned in just about every area of the country, MMA is now sanctioned in 42 states. Earlier this month, Massachusetts became the latest, and UFC officials have already slotted Aug. 28 for an event in the lucrative Boston market.
Additionally, the Vancouver (B.C.) City Council last week agreed to a two-year trial regulatory run, and the UFC plans to host a June show in the city. The organization has hosted just two events in Canada — both in Montreal with a combined $10 million in gross ticket sales — and officials expect a Vancouver show to do just as well.
That won’t be the only international expansion, though. UFC 110 takes place Feb. 22 in Sydney, Australia, and the UFC is planning an April event in the United Arab Emirates in the tourist-friendly capital of Abu Dhabi.
“We’re not going to sit still,” White said. “This is only the beginning. We’ve only scratched the surface.”