Counter-programming alert: Spike TV targets Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 15 on Friday nights in 2012

via assets.sbnation.com

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is bringing The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 15 to its new home on the FX channel beginning March 9, 2012.

Bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz will coach opposite his arch rival and number one contender to the 135-pound title, Urijah Faber, in the two-hour season premiere with subsequent episodes airing every Friday night for the following 13 weeks.

The new format, promised to overhaul what many fans felt had gone stale after 14 seasons on Spike TV, will also feature LIVE fights on a weekly basis.

In other words, shit just got real.

As expected, Spike will take full advantage of its licensing rights to the UFC tape library and air weekly "Best of" compilations from TUF seasons past -- directly opposite TUF 15 in an attempt to lure away the casual fan who might not know any better.

Here's what to expect.

Spike TV, the recognized home of mixed martial arts on television, has announced a new three-hour programming block debuting on Friday, March 2 (9:00 PM – Midnight, ET/PT) featuring the greatest episodes from the 14 seasons of "The Ultimate Fighter." From Rashad Evans to Matt Serra, from Forrest Griffin to Kimbo Slice, "The Ultimate Fighter Fridays" on Spike TV will showcase all the incredible knockouts, unbelievable submissions, and tense drama from the seven years of the hit Spike series. The network will air special-themed editions of "The Ultimate Fighter Fridays" with input from fans via Facebook and Twitter. Details will be announced in the upcoming weeks.

The UFC is headed for greener pastures on the FOX network (including FX and FUEL TV) after Spike balked at Zuffa's increased licensing fees during contract negotiations earlier this year.

With the end of the Spike TV "Prelims" specials and various other MMA-related programming, the network had a pretty sizable gap to fill in its efforts to retain the 18-34 demographic that tuned in for televised fisticuffs.

Enter Bellator.

While Bjorn Rebney and Co. won't be able to make their Spike TV debut until 2013, the network will try and keep fight fans satiated with a constant stream of UFC fights, which they still have at their disposal.

Anyone think this will put a dent in the ratings for the debut of TUF 15?

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