NEW YORK NY - JANUARY 13: Lorenzo Fertitta UFC Chairman and President speaks during a press conference to announce commitment to bring UFC to Madison Square Garden and New York State at Madison Square Garden on January 13 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Michael Cohen/Getty Images)
Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) will make its network television debut this Saturday night (Nov. 12, 2011) with UFC on FOX 1: "Velasquez vs. Dos Santos," a five-round main event title fight between reigning division champion Cain Velasquez and number one contender Junior dos Santos.
If you're thinking "that's a pay-per-view (PPV) quality headliner," it is.
But a short-term loss is a long-term gain. That's according to UFC co-owner Lorenzo Fertitta, who told the Sports Business Journal that he expects a healthy return over the next ten years thanks to FOX:
"When we were on Spike TV, that was a launching pad. We look at Fox as a bigger and better platform that could elevate the brand. We’re flat out going to lose money on this fight. But that’s the investment we’re making. Those are the steps we’ve got to take to make Cain and Junior pay-per-view stars and lift up the whole thing. Maybe we think a little funny here, but that’s well worth forgoing $16 million. Take that out over the next 10 years and we get a healthy return."
Fertitta's goal is to convert 100,000 freebies into 100,000 PPV buys, using the FOX network to re-launch the brand into the mainstream market in much the same way Spike TV did (on a smaller scale) back in 2006 with The Ultimate Fighter (TUF).
Speaking of TUF guys, the proving ground for up-and-coming fighters is moving to a live format when it transitions to the FX channel in Spring 2012, with 13 live episodes followed by an all-live season finale to crown the next Ultimate Fighter champion.
The landmark deal, one that spans seven years and is valued at $100 million, may just be a series of "commercials" to attract advertisers, sponsors and PPV buyers through the recruitment of new fans -- and the re-introduction to old ones.
Anyone think the UFC has put its best foot forward? Or have you reserved judgement until the fighters actually throw down?