The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) has found a permanent home on ESPN for its live programming in the United Kingdom (UK) and Ireland after an abrupt end to its partnership with Setanta Sports earlier this year.
"The Worldwide Leader in Sports" will launch its UFC programming on August 3 on both the Sky and Virgin networks in the UK and Ireland at no cost for the first thirty days.
Following the initial free period, Sky Sports viewers will be eligible to subscribe to ESPN for £9 per month, and viewers without Sky Sports can subscribe for £11.
First up on the docket will be a live broadcast of UFC 101: 'Declaration' on Saturday, August 8, followed by UFC 102: 'Couture vs. Nogueira' on August 29. UFC Unleashed will also air every Thursday at 10pm.
From UFC UK President Marshall Zelaznik courtesy of telegraph.co.uk:
"We are ecstatic to announce that ESPN is the new home of the UFC in the UK and Ireland. ESPN is one of the most trusted and respected brands in all of sports broadcasting, and we are thrilled to be working with them as they launch their new channel in the UK and Ireland. Over the last three years, the UFC has become as big a part of the sporting landscape in the British Isles as football and rugby, and for the worldwide leader in sports broadcasting came to us and we were able to reach an agreement so quickly is another testament that the UFC is an important part of the British sporting calendar."
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.
That deal recently eroded because of the broadcaster's financial instability following the dissolution of some of its English Premier League rights that left Setanta strapped for cash and on the prowl for some emergency funding.
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.
The new deal with ESPN will not only solidify the presence of the UFC on UK television, it will also be a major step towards Zuffa’s goal of brand globalization.
Stay tuned to MMAmania.com as more details are expected to be announced over the next few days.