ESPN aired a negative feature on UFC fighter pay at the beginning of this year, which resulted in the Ultimate Fighting Championship and Dana White responding with their own version of the piece and a few not-so-kind words for ESPN.
The problems between the UFC and ESPN are also evident in the United Kingdom, where the sports giant broadcasts the majority of Ultimate Fighting Championship events. The UFC's current contract with ESPN expires this August.
During a recent fan Q&A session via Twitter, Lorenzo Fertitta stated that he was “not happy” with the ESPN and when asked about the new partner after the current contract expires in August, Fertitta said that they want "something big ... ESPN is stopping MMA gaining maximum traction in the UK. Need a station with more views, gain traction then big fight PPV,” indicating that the organisation's aim for the UK market is to have fights broadcast on pay-per-view.
It seems then that all signs currently point towards a deal with FOX's UK counterpart, Sky television, after the ESPN deal expires in August. Despite moving away from the pay-per-view business, 'Box Office' movies and events are still big business and as the most established sports network in the UK, Sky certainly have the resources required to push MMA (and the UFC brand) into the mainstream outside of the United States.
Traditionally, the pay-per-view model does not work in the United Kingdom, but if the UFC were to put on an event at the O2 Arena featuring a big title fight and a couple of the most popular fighters on the roster, fans would almost certainly be willing to part with their hard earned cash to tune in. On top of live fight cards, if you include The Ultimate Fighter, UFC Tonight, UFC Central, Ultimate Insider, UFC FX and Fuel TV cards, which would more than likely end up spread across the various Sky Sports or Sky Entertainment channels, it could end up being the perfect scenario for the UFC.
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