Starting with UFC 80 back on January 19, 2008, the Ultimate Fighting Championship struck a deal with international sports broadcaster Setanta Sports to bring the UFC to millions of homes in the United Kingdom.
Now that deal has apparently eroded due to the financial instability of Setanta as reported by The Sun.
Setanta operates in Great Britain, Ireland, Luxembourg, the United States, Canada and Australia and provides premium sports television channels on a subscription basis, including its multi-year deal with Zuffa.
Unfortunately the dissolution of some of its English Premier League rights left Setanta strapped for cash and on the prowl for some emergency funding. A complete and utter collapse in operations — which would effectively blackout any and all UFC programming in the UK, had been reported as inevitable.
It was unknown if UFC 99, scheduled for June 13 in Cologne, Germany, would even make the airwaves in the UK until just a day before the broadcast, jeopardizing the momentum of Zuffa’s Europe expansion.
In response, Setanta recently released a statement regarding their current state of affairs.
"As has been widely reported in various media channels, the management of Setanta Sports is in the process of attempting to secure the future of the business. The company has not gone into administration. All our channels are still broadcasting across all platforms and our subscribers can continue to enjoy our programming. However, in the current circumstances, we have decided to suspend temporarily the acceptance of new subscriptions…"
With Setanta’s future seemingly on the brink, the UFC has decided they aren't taking any more chances -- especially with one of their biggest shows of all time just around the corner in UFC 100.
From Marshall Zelaznik, president of the UFC's UK division:
"It was with great regret that we ended the relationship with Setanta. Over the last two years, Setanta has helped the UFC become the biggest indoor sporting event in the British Isles. They were the right partner for us at the right time as we continued to build the sport of mixed martial arts and our brand. Throughout the last few weeks we have been kept informed of the situation at Setanta. Therefore, we are in a position to ensure our UK and Eire fans will not miss any of this summer's huge UFC events — commencing with UFC 100 in July. We will be announcing the new home of UFC shortly but assure our fans they won't miss any of the upcoming super-fights."
The UFC is currently negotiating a new broadcast deal with a new network, presumably Bravo, home to UFC programming prior to the deal with Setanta or even Sky.
With the popularity of MMA increasing (especially in light of the ‘US vs. UK’ TUF format) and two other networks to consider (Sky and Bravo), the UFC should be back in business shortly.