UFC makes big move in first FOX fight

UFC makes big move in first FOX fight

Published Sep. 2, 2011 1:00 a.m. ET

UFC president Dana White shocked the world Friday by announcing on a media conference call that the world heavyweight championship fight between Cain Velasquez and Junior Dos Santos has been moved from the Nov. 19 UFC 139 pay-per-view to the organization’s Nov 12 debut on FOX.

While many doubted that the organization would sacrifice the possible pay-per-view revenue by moving the UFC 139 headliner, this was always the biggest fight that could be made for the organization’s network television debut, particularly as the event will go up against the start of the Manny Pacquiao vs. Juan Manuel Marquez boxing pay-per-view. With Hispanic fight fans sitting down to cheer on JMM later in the evening, Nov. 12 is the perfect opportunity to introduce Velasquez to the Mexican fanbase.

Additionally, the words “world heavyweight title fight” have a cache to fight fans of a certain age, one magnified by traditional combat sports such as boxing and pro-wrestling having done such a rotten job of promoting and protecting their titles. On the conference call, White already started pushing the fight as the return of the heavyweight championship to network television, playing the UFC president’s long-established narrative that the UFC is to this generation what boxing was to previous ones.

One imagines that the hand-wringing articles from the boxing press wondering why the UFC’s heavyweight championship is featured prominently on America’s premier sports network while boxing’s has over the years struggled to get onto premium cable are already being written. White wasted no time sticking the knife into a moribund heavyweight division, saying that this will be a ‘barnburner’ while boxing's heavyweight rulers, Wladimir and Vitali Klitschko, put people to sleep.


While the UFC president admitted that the details of the broadcast were still were being worked out, there is no doubting that it’s going to be a great leap forward for the organization. White promised a major overhaul to promotion and talked about how one of the advantages of just having one live fight on the hour show was that it gave them the chance to devote time to introducing a new audience to the world’s fastest growing sport.

FOX officials talked about their plans for an hour preview on Oct. 30, following the network’s NFL game to use the biggest possible audience to introduce both Velasquez and Dos Santos to young male sports fans. They’re also planning to organize a “Super Bowl-style” tailgate party featuring celebrities on the night of the fight. Despite FOX only getting final word on the fight Thursday night, ads for the fight will air on the channel’s college football and baseball programming this weekend.

Friday’s announcement shows that with the new television deal, it’s anything but business as usual for the UFC. The company’s debut on network television is a momentous occasion and one to which the organization is fully committed. The UFC’s debut on FOX gives the organization the chance to showcase two of its best fighters and hold up its world championships as being on par with major sporting trophies such as the Super Bowl, Champions League and World Series that have all been broadcast on the network this year.

By delivering what White called the UFC’s “most prestigious championship,” the organization is maximizing the buzz surrounding its network debut by heralding the return of heavyweight championship fighting to network television.