In a gathering that's highly suspected to announce a deal between FOX Broadcasting Company and the UFC, the network will be holding a special live press conference today (August 18, 2011) in Los Angeles at 1 p.m. ET.
Scheduled to attend are FOX Sports Media Group Chairman and CEO David Hill, Co-Presidents and COO's Randy Freer and Eric Shanks, and FX President John Landgraf.
Representing the Ultimate Fighting Championship will be UFC President Dana White and UFC executive and part owner Lorenzo Fertitta. Several of the UFC's most marketable fighters like Georges St. Pierre and Rashad Evansare also rumored to be in attendance
The UFC has long sought out a deal with a major network. The promotion's is currently under contract Spike TV, a cable channel primarily geared towards the male audience, but the current deal expires at the end of this year.
If the rumors are true, this wouldn't be the first time the UFC has worked with Fox. The world's top promotion used to broadcast special "UFC Fight Shows" on FSN in 2004 while building its brand before finding a home on Spike TV with "The Ultimate Fighter."
If you're interested in watching, the conference can be viewed live here.
We'll have complete updates of this monumental press conference after the jump.
Brian Hemminger here. The press conference is scheduled to begin very shortly.
There's a very professional video introduction before the conference.
Joe Rogan is leading the charge apparently moderating the conference.
David Hill: We first started talking to the UFC 10 years ago. Lorenzo told me then that "what boxing was to your generation, UFC will be and is for the next generation." Sports in television is the ultimate democratic process. The people have to speak. Television can't make a sport, it can only enhance it. They've taken it to a mainstream sport in 10 years. The culmination of this deal has very little to do with me, it's more to do with Eric Shanks and Randy Freer believing in it. This is just the beginning. I can't overemphasize the way this sport has grown in 10 years.
Eric Shanks: This deal touches all aspects of the Fox sports media group. Four shows on Fox and 32 shows a year on FX as well as two seasons of The Ultimate Fighter. Friday nights will belong to us. Pre and post-fight shows for the network for all the pay-per-views. We like to think of ourselves as the big event network. These guys put on big events and it fits really well with our brand.
Dana White: The Ultimate Fighter will be on FX live on FX. There's been a lot of big milestones that we've had in the last 10 years but I have to be totally honest that this is the biggest. This was it for me. This is what I've always wanted. This is what I thought was the pinnacle for us, to be on a network with all the big sports. This will take the sport to the next level. This is the first step.
Lorenzo Fertitta: We're taking the sport to the next level. It's very exciting. As we sat down and talked many times over the last 10 years, it was really an easy decision. The fact is, we've been in business with Fox for a long time. This is really just the icing on the cake. This culminated in a deal that's not just a simple deal with a big fight on TV. We're gonna touch every aspect of this company which is gonna be great.
John Landgraf: Both UFC and FX have shown tremendous growth over the last 10 years. We're no longer an emerging network, we're established. Our ratings are up there with all the other networks on an entertainment business. Our competitors had professional sports to set them apart and now so do we. Dana and Lorenzo have come up with ideas that will revolutionize The Ultimate Fighter. Now the show's gonna be show over 13 week and each installment will be edited the week of and then we'll have a live fight.
Dana White: The Ultimate Fighter created superstars and champions. The Ultimate Fighter will now be live. Where we used to go in and the guys would stay there for six weeks and be in the can and we'd release the show a month later, everything will be shown live. The reality will have happened that week. The coaches will be doing their training camp while working on the show as well. All the fights and the finale will all line right up and be live. This is revolutionary television right here.
A highlight reel of "The Ultimate Fighter" is shown with discussion of the changes:
-There will be a two hour live season premiere with 32 fighters facing off in "all-or-nothing" fights.
-After coaches pick their teams, they choose who's eligible for each bout and the audience gets to have a voice in selecting who will fight as well.
-Each episode will be a countdown to the fight.
-The raw live aftermath of the winners and losers will be brought home as well.
-After 12 episodes of live fights, the season culminates in an all-live finale to crown the next champion.
Josh Gross actually invited to sit with the media and ask questions. He asks about Hill's opinion changing on MMA.
Hill: My reservations were back in 2001, but then I saw what was happening. The key difference was boxing being one dimensional and this show being three dimensional. The Ultimate Fighter was more enjoyable on a visceral level than anything else. You get to know the athletes on an individual level. They're entirely different than boxers.
Hill: What Dana and Lorenzo have done, I think they're production is first class. I think they're doing a fantastic job as it is.
Dana White: At UFC 37.5, that was the first live fight we did on television. We talked to guys over the years. Did we think the UFC would be this big? I don't know if it ever thought it would but it is.
Lorenzo Fertitta: David gave us an opportunity with The Best Damn Sports Show and it's progressed from there.
Dana White: We're working on a fight for Saturday November 12th. We're gonna have a show on Fox.
Dana Whtie: The deal is for seven years.
Shanks: What we ended up doing was a pure rights deal for Fuel. It's still in discussion. This is a partnership and we're in business together. Fuel will have a significant amount of UFC supporting programming and live programming throughout the year.
Hill: If you look at what the UFC has done in 10 years, I don't know what any of us can predict over the next few years. There will be a lot of discussion and we'll move forward.
Dana White: A lot of our programming from "Unleashed" to prelims will be moved to Fuel.
Question from CNBC about UFC being on "Do Not Buy" lists and thoughts of return on investment.
Hill: We did a lot of research before making this deal. There might be a few companies that have a "Do Not Buy" but there are a hell of a lot of companies that have a "Do Buy" on the sport. If you look at the history of the Fox sports media group and what we do, we didn't go into this with our fingers crossed.
Question from the New York Times. You said this was one of the biggest announcements in Fox broadcasting history. Why is this such a big deal?
Hill: We were worried that you wouldn't tune in and it worked.
Dana White: The production will be done the same as it's always been. Fox will bring in guys for the pre and post-show and we'll handle the event just like we always have.
Dana White: Fight Nights will be on FX, we'll do big fights on Fox. There will be six Fight Nights on FX and four a year on Fox.
Shanks: When people ask, "is this the point where this sport is legitimate?" God, it's been legitimate for a decade now. A lot of people are going to be exposed to it for the first time when it's on big Fox, but there will be plenty of people that already know about it who will be following along.
Lorenzo Fertitta: Every major broadcaster wanted to be involved in the UFC, but this was the right deal for the right company at the right time.
Dana White: Coming to Fox, we're changing everything including the pay-per-view. We're making a fresh start. We're making a change to The Ultimate Fighter. We've done things that have been revolutionary in the fight business. What we want to do is take everything to the next level from pay-per-view to The Ultimate Fighter to everything that we produce.
Loretta Hunt also invited, asks about championship fights on Fox shows.
Lorenzo Fertitta: You may not have championship fights on every Fox show, but there will be some. You can expect BIG fights.
Dana White: There will be no speedo fights.
Lorenzo Fertitta: What really will speed up the UFC going to Mexico is our deal with Fox Latin America.
Question from Wall Street Journal
Lorenzo Fertitta: We looked at a bunch of different deals and one was a joint venture to launch our own network. At the end of the day, this license structure made a lot of sense with Fox. I think a UFC channel would be successful, but at the end of the day, we put on fights and we don't run a network.
Hill: The reason for the importance of the deal is what it brings for the male 18-34 demographic. Looking at that young demo, it's always wavering. They're gonna grow with the sport and teach their kids. When you look at the sport, that is the key demo and the UFC is pulling huge ratings there. That's what the exciting future is. That's the key, key thing.
Lorenzo Fertitta: Some of the biggest events in history have been big fights. What Fox is getting here is big fights, which is something boxing can't do right now because they're so fragmented. What's happening around the world is really going to happen in the US. We're putting a fight on in Brazil on August 26th that will have 30-40 million people in Brazil watching live on Ready TV. We're gonna create that era in our sport.
Dana White: A live event is "destination TV" and we're gonna be doing tons of live sports events on the Fox networks.
Dana White: The Fox deal is gonna take this thing to a whole new level. The New York deal is a whole 'nother level.
question from Luke Thomas about competing with Pacquiao
Dana White: I'm a Manny Pacquiao fan and we compete for dates not just with boxing but with other sporting events. There's always something going on and in no way shape or form are we trying to go out of our way to compete with the Pacquiao fight.
Shanks: We haven't set a true expectation on ratings. We know it's going to be huge and we're gonna put everything at our disposal to get as big of a rating as possible.
Dana White: We're gonna change everything, graphics, show openings for pay-per-views and fight nights. We're going to enhance the look and feel.
Dana White: At the end of the day we're a pay-per-view company. There's going to be millions and millions of people that see the UFC for the first time. What we're doing on Fox and FX and seeing great ideas. Me and Lorenzo have lived in our own little world for the last 10 years and they gave us a lot of great ideas for people that are seeing this for the first time. It's going to be fun. The gladiator opening is going away.
Lorenzo Fertitta: When you add it up, it's multiples in terms of television hours from what we got on Spike.
Hill: We've always been opportunistic and recently we've been the underbidder. We bid what something is worth and sports rights are the ultimate supply and demand. There is one property and there is multiple bidders. We do a fair amount of soul-searching and staring at calculators. We're very passionate about this.
Hill: We'll probably do what we've done the past 10 years which is sit back and applaud in terms of production.
Shanks: There's gonna be a lot of cross-promotion across the media group and through all of our properties just as you cross-promote properties that you want to see succeed. A lot of the tactical ideas are yet to come. We've had meetings all day yesterday and a lot of meetings to come. We're digging in today to figure that out.
Hill: I can't emphasize how thrilled we are that we got the deal done. Imagine what's going to happen in the next decade. The growth potential for this is exploding.
This concludes the press conference.