The importance of UFC’s Fox debut at Honda Center
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Ultimate Fighting Championship President Dana White, still celebrating a seven-year association with Fox worth $100 million annually, said Monday he’ll know more about the Nov. 12 participants after the UFC card this weekend in Brazil.
The debut ‘UFC on Fox’ Nov. 12 card will be fought at Honda Center.
White said the necessity of crowd-pleasing fights Nov. 12 is as important now -- as his organization touches its most massive mainstream audience -- as it was in 2005 when Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar fought in the epic finale of ‘The Ultimate Fighter,’ and allowed White and UFC Chairmen Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta to strike a television deal the same night.
White and the brothers’ journey started with a $115,000 live gate at their first UFC card in 2001.
‘We’re not mainstream yet,’ White said he told his UFC staff last week. ‘Now’s the time to dig in and work. If we pull this thing off, we will be mainstream.’
White said before he sets the main event for Nov. 12 he needs to watch what transpires Saturday when his long-reigning middleweight champion Anderson Silva defends his belt against Yushin Okami and former light-heavyweight champion Griffin has a rematch with another former champion in the division, Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua, whom Griffin defeated at Honda Center. Does that mean Silva could fight in Anaheim?
‘I’m not saying that,’ White said. ‘Let me get through these fights.’
The Brazil card in Rio de Janeiro has sold out 14,000 seats in an arena. It’ll be broadcast on pay-per-view Saturday night.
The location, says White, proves his point that mixed martial arts has limitless appeal beyond borders. ‘Fighting’s in our DNA,’ he said. ‘The rules don’t have to be explained. You can just sit down and watch two guys going at it.’
That said, White has plans to educate the first-time viewer who’ll tune in to the Fox card about the essentials and basics of MMA.
‘We live in a bubble in our [UFC Las Vegas] offices and take it for granted people know what armbars, guillotines and triangle chokes are -- nobody knows what this [stuff] means,’ White said. ‘We have to view [Fox programming] as if nobody knows anything about this sport, that people die in this cage.
‘We’re going to educate the masses, treat it like nobody knows who we are. I think our [hardcore] audience understands that’s necessary.’
Fox will air prefight and postfight shows, featuring stories of the fighters, debates about upcoming fights and other topics, and White vowed UFC analyst Joe Rogan will work hard to keep the new UFC viewers up to speed about action in the octagon.
Fox Sports’ executive David Hill guaranteed last week that the UFC fights will win the Saturday night ratings battle.
White, who said he also negotiated with CBS, Comcast and Spike TV for a major TV deal, said the Fox deal accelerated at 100 mph in recent months.
‘I was so stressed out,’ White said over lunch, eating plain chicken breasts and artichoke spears. ‘If this didn’t take years off my life, nothing did. It was all about, ‘This thing is about to be great,’ while knowing, ‘If we blow this thing, nothing could be worse.’ ‘
White said that beyond putting six other UFC fight cards on FX, and airing ‘The Ultimate Fighter,’ with live competition on the cable network, he plans to pursue an idea to stage a global version of ‘TUF,’ creating a worldwide competition for a new ultimate fighter. White said an ‘Australia versus U.K.’ concept is already being worked on.
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