Speaking with SI.com last Friday at a Television Critics Association event in Pasadena, Calif., Brian Diamond, the senior vice present of sports/specials for Spike TV, discussed what fans should expect in 2010 and beyond.
SI.com: People have said that Spike is essentially the UFC network. Is there any concern for you about oversaturation of UFC on Spike, and along those lines, people have speculated about oversaturation of MMA in general on television. Is there any validity to those concerns?
Diamond: Well, to answer the second question first, and Dana says this too, I think the sport has grown leaps and bounds, and it's not mainstream yet. To me, the UFC is always going to be the gold standard, so unless the audience comes to us and says "stop, too much," and no one has done that yet, it's going to be a big part of what we do. Having said that I've always said we're not a sports network, we're a network that has sports. UFC is a very important part of that. There are other sports that will be breaking out over time on Spike. We just saw a panel today with TNA. They're sports entertainment, but they're a big part of what we do. The Facing Ali documentary, that's a big part of what we're starting to do. That sTUFf is important. We don't have a lot of sports that we put on our air, but to us what we put on is our filet mignon. We have other stuff. We launched Blue Mountain State this week that everyone is going crazy over. We're always cognizant of a balance and not going overboard with it, but I don't think we've reached the saturation point yet.
SI.com: How much more can the sport grow before it starts leveling off?
Diamond: I think the sky's the limit. For us, every time we think it'll plateau, it goes up for another reason. Whether they're signing another fighter, whether there's another programming concept, whether their expansion internationally will have an affect on us. Again, it's like the ideas come from within this think tank of all of us. ... The irony is, with everyone asking if it'll peak or go away, mixed martial arts has been around for 2,000 years. You know, as a sport, it's not going away. Will it have its peaks and valleys? Sure. The NBA had some dark times. Major League Baseball had its dark times. It ebbs and flows but I don't think it's going anywhere.
SI.com: How much longer do you see The Ultimate Fighter being a viable product?
Diamond: I think it can go as long as we can all come up with new concepts and ways to keep it fresh each time. That's the challenge for us. In 10 seasons, and now 11 because I kind of know what's going on for the next season, as long as that exists it can keep going. We always have new fighters coming up. Fortunately we have the luxury right now of five weight classes, so we can mix that up. It's a feeder system that just keeps feeding itself. I don't think there's a lack of interest in it. i think guys watching love to get into the idea of character, and for them it's a vehicle because they've seen the gestation period go from start to finish. Hey, I watched the show. I got to know Kenny Florian. Now I really like him and feel invested in him watching pay-per-views over the next couple years. We could be the Saturday Night Live of pro sports.
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