By Tim Molloy
NEW YORK (TheWrap.com) – Fox and Ultimate Fighting Championship announced a multi-year, multi-platform deal Thursday calling for Fox to air four primetime or late-night UFC events a year.
UFC said the deal would help further establish ultimate fighting as a major sport, and noted that Fox has previously aired the Super Bowl, World Series and Daytona 500.
The deal calls for “The Ultimate Fighter,” UFC’s signature weekly reality show, to move from Spike TV to FX in spring 2012. New episodes will air on Friday nights, and FX will also air four to six live fight shows a year.
The first live event on Fox will air Saturday, November 12 at 9 p.m. ET.
Other Fox networks, including Fuel TV, will air additional programing beginning in January 2012. The programing will include “UFC Unleashed,” “UFC Primetime,” the “UFC Knockout” series, “Best of Pride,” and weigh-ins.
Watch “UFC Primetime:”
“We’re excited to be part of the Fox family,” said UFC president Dana White. “The UFC is finally where it belongs on the No. 1 network in the country and aligned with the most prestigious sports properties in the world. I’ve always said that the UFC will be the biggest sport in the world and with this relationship it will become a reality.”
Moments before Fox’s announcement, Spike announced that the 14th season of “The Ultimate Fighter,” beginning in September, would be its last on Spike.
UFC said the deal with Fox reflected its massive growth since its founding in 1993. It was acquired by Zuffa, LLC, in 2001, and Fox Sports Net carried its first non-pay-per-view event on basic cable television the next year, delivering what was then its largest audience. UFC has tried to gain a mainstream audience by working with state athletic commissions and establishing consistent rules and standards.
It now boasts advertisers including Bud Light, Dodge and Harley Davidson, and a young, growing audience. UFC said the median age for UFC viewers on Spike was 36, compared to 43 for the Super Bowl.
UFC programing is broadcast in more than 132 countries and territories, reaching 597 million homes worldwide, in 21 different languages.