Dave Meltzer from WrestlingObserver.com throws out a juicy nugget in the recent print publication of his newsletter:
UFC 80: "Rapid Fire"— not UFC 81 as speculated — could air for FREE on the CBS network rather than pay-per-view (PPV) if a deal can be hammered out in time. It seems that The Writers Guild of America (WGA) strike is beginning to reduce the television landscape "to a barren wasteland of reruns and infomercials."
Primetime mixed martial arts (MMA) action, perhaps, can provide an intriguing spark that boosts ratings during a downtime for the network and increases the exposure exponentially for the sport in general and the UFC brand in particular.
Remember, not too long ago the original plan was to broadcast the overseas cards on a premium cable channel, most notably HBO. That deal turned out to be a long drawn-out failure that, in the long run, presented several programming problems (i.e. UFC 70 was aired on SpikeTV for free because it was too late to get it on PPV, UFC 72 was aired live during the middle of the day via PPV and UFC 75 went back to the free model).
In short, no real solid solution has emerged to broadcast these events until now ... maybe.
As it stands at press time UFC 80 is set to air LIVE on PPV on Saturday, January 19 at 3 p.m. ET, according to UFC.com. However, that could change to a tape delay that airs at the usual 10 p.m. ET – UFC 72, according to most reports, was a debacle and the organization will more than likely take that into consideration.
But UFC 72 could be attributed more to a lack of star power on the card and not a single title fight.
Anyway ... what's going to happen with UFC 80? Hard to tell at this point.
Clearly, staging shows on CBS would be a public relations coup for the UFC and MMA. Currently, only cable channels such as SpikeTV, Fox Sports Net, MyNetworkTV, HDNet, Versus and ShowTime provide MMA programming.
Having said that it's certainly not a lock. In fact, UFC 80 on CBS seems more like a long shot at this point. And if CBS and the UFC can't come to terms soon the only other option would indeed be a PPV event.
That's because there are all sorts of deadlines and other details that need to be in place at a certain time to air events on PPV. We're not privy to those specific dates, but with UFC 80 less than eight weeks away it's safe to say the window of opportunity gets smaller with each passing day.
But what an amazing opportunity it represents if both sides agree in the near future.
UFC 80: "Rapid Fire" is set for the Metro Radio Arena in Newcastle, England, on Saturday, January 19. For most recent rumored fight card click here.