Ariel Helwani with the scoop:
Get ready for a whole lot more mixed martial arts action on VERSUS come 2010.
The network recently signed a multi-year extension with Zuffa LLC, the parent company of the Ultimate Fighting Championship and World Extreme Cagefighting.
As part of VERSUS’ renewal deal, the network will air seven live WEC fights and two live UFC events in 2010, marking the first time that live UFC events will air on a national sports cable network. Also included in the renewal deal are digital media rights, giving VERSUS.com the ability to air one non-televised fight and behind-the-scenes footage from each live WEC Event.
Details regarding when the first live UFC event will air on the network will be announced in the near future.
I wonder if this has anything to do with the rumored deal between Comcast(Versus's parent company) and NBC? Mike Chiappetta spoke on the scenario a couple of weeks back:
Given that it's unlikely that Versus -- even under new management -- wouldn't break a newly signed deal, there is the chance for a very positive relationship emerging. The Times' piece suggests that Comcast will use Versus to challenge ESPN for sports cable supremacy and perhaps rechristen the channel with a name like NBC Sports Cable to give it a stronger brand presence. The WEC has generated some of Versus' best ratings over time, and could take on added importance in such a scenario.
A legitimate content war between the goliath ESPN and the suddenly deep-pocketed Versus would have the two vying for top properties across the sports landscape. And because NBC/Comcast's channels will feature both Bellator and the WEC, it might suddenly make more sense for the executives at ESPN or FOX to welcome UFC into their sports lineup. No one will want to be left out of the party, especially with the best dance partner still available. In that instance, Zuffa would emerge a double-winner. It may sound far-fetched, but Zuffa has had at least preliminary talks with both networks in the past, and an NBC/Comcast merger is nothing short of a declaration of war in the TV business.
Of course this was written before Chiapetta had knowledge of the UFC airing two events on Versus in 2010. Also, Versus is still in negotiations with DirectTV to start airing the channel once again. This will be the first time that the UFC has aired on another network since they began airing on Spike TV back in 2005. I suppose we'll have to stay tuned as more details become available.