UFC on cable sports network for first time
AP Sports Writer
BROOMFIELD, Colo. (AP) – Versus is airing its first live Ultimate Fighting Championship event on Sunday, a broadcast the sports cable network and the mixed martial arts circuit are both touting as a watershed for their partnership.
Veteran Brandon Vera will take on rising star Jon Jones in the light heavyweight main event. The undercard, airing at 9 p.m. ET, includes Junior Dos Santos vs. Gabriel Gonzaga, Cheick Kongo vs. Paul Buentello and Alessio Sakara vs. James Irvin.
“It’s a pay-per-view type card,” UFC president Dana White said. “Jon Jones and Brandon Vera, sick fight, this fight’s going to be awesome.”
Although UFC events have been shown on Spike TV, this is the fist time one of its fights has been broadcast on a national sports cable network.
“It’s a real watershed event for us,” Versus president Jamie Davis said.
The UFC is just as excited about the opportunity to showcase its brand to millions of potential new fans.
“I think that when we do these free fights on (cable) TV, we’re going to have people that are channel surfing and will stumble on it and start to watch it and realize how amazing this sport is,” White said. “The other thing is I have millions of hardcore fans who buy 12 to 14 pay-per-views from me a year and I like giving back.”
White said the event, were it not on cable, would cost $34.95.
Versus has been the national cable television home of World Extreme Cagefighting since its inception in 2007, and in December the network announced a multiyear extension with Zuffa LLC., the owners of the WEC and UFC, to air two live UFC events this year in addition to the seven live WEC fights.
Versus, a wholly owned subsidiary of Comcast Corp., will air the other UFC fight in late summer. That card is still being finalized.
WEC will stage its first pay-per-view event April 24, scheduling a star-stacked card for its first attempt to persuade mixed martial arts fans to pay for its fights.
Sunday night’s UFC event will be available in 75 million homes, including subscribers of DirecTV, which reached a deal with Versus on Monday to return the sports network to the satellite television service after an impasse that lasted more than six months.