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UFC nears deal with ESPN to screen MMA events on UK television

The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) may have finally found a permanent home for its live programming in the United Kingdom (UK) after an abrupt end to its partnership with Setanta Sports earlier this year.

According to The Sun, a new deal with ESPN is expected to be announced during a UFC press conference on Friday, July 31. "The Worldwide Leader in Sports" will reportedly launch its UK channel shortly after that on August 3 with plans to air UFC 101 as its first major event on August 8.

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.

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.

That deal recently eroded due to the financial instability of Setanta.

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.

The UFC was also forced to scramble to get airtime for UFC 100, their biggest show of the year. The pay-per-view eventually ended up airing via Sky TV on a defunct 'Racing World' channel.

A deal with ESPN would not only solidify the presence of the UFC on UK television, it would be a major step towards Zuffa's goal of brand globalization.

Stay tuned to for more developments on this story as they unfold.

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