UFC: Fox Sports 1 Provides New Platform

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Less than two weeks ago, a new player entered the 24-hour sports channel game. Fox Sports 1 debuted on August 17, and has been significantly more diverse in its programming than the motor sports channel it replaced, Speed.  The infant station’s slogan is, “America’s New Sports Network,” which suggests that it wishes to directly compete with America’s old sports network, ESPN.

Competition hasn’t happened yet, and doesn’t seem likely to in the near future considering ESPN’s currently superior pool of broadcast rights. The reigning sports media king has rights in all of the major US sports leagues except the NHL and Rupert Murdoch’s challenger lags behind at the moment. The new network can purchase more rights in the future, but they do have at least one advantage over ESPN right now — the rights to all UFC broadcasts until 2019.

This newest step in UFC’s push to become a respected, mainstream organization-though, in this writer’s opinion it already should be-has already proven to be a boon for UFC fans and should continue to be in the coming months.

In essence, Fox took all of the UFC programming on its Fuel and FX channels and moved it to the new 24-hour sports network. In just the first two weeks of FS1’s programming, they have shown two full “UFC Fight Nights.”

UFC Fight Night 26 was awarded a primetime slot on the new network’s opening night and UFC commissioner Dana White didn’t disappoint, putting together one of the best fight cards since the organization’s inception. The lineup featured nine fighters who had previously been part of a UFC Main Event.

White already announced that there will be a total of 12 of these UFC Fight Nights on FS1 in the near future, most of which will air on Wednesdays. While the previous free fights on FX were mostly bouts that only die-hard fans would find interesting, the commissioner has promised that won’t be the case on the new channel.

“We want to make sure that when we deliver fights, we deliver fights that people want to watch,” White told Sports Illustrated. “I think you saw in the old days when boxing went away from TV, they put crappy boxing on TV that people did not want to watch. We’re doing the exact opposite.”

In short, UFC fans sleep on these fights at their own peril. This past Wednesday’s matchup between Carlos Condit and Martin Kampman was a second stellar Main Event fight in a row and more are likely coming.

In addition to the 12 announced full fight cards, FS1 will also soon feature a weekly studio show, UFC Tonight, hosted by Chael Sonnen and will air the 18th season of The Ultimate Fighter starting on September 4 of this year. Basically, all of the UFC coverage a fan could ask for is available on the upstart network.

Hopefully all of the programming on FS1 will generate high ratings, forcing ESPN to wake up and realize MMA has become more than a niche sport. Even if it doesn’t, it’s refreshing to see an executive like Murdoch take the UFC seriously. The organization’s future is brighter than it’s ever been.

Dylan Sinn is a freelance contributor for CraveOnline Sports. You can follow him on Twitter @DylanSinn or subscribe at Facebook.com/CraveOnlineSports.