In 2005, the Ultimate Fighting Championship experienced an explosion in popularity thanks to the live-aired finale of the first season of The Ultimate Fighter; the light heavyweight slobberknocker between Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar started a wave of momentum that the UFC is still riding strong today. By putting together a heavyweight title fight on Fox to kick off their seven-year broadcast deal with Fox networks, the promotion is looking to generate another swell in popularity and further break into the mainstream.
Speaking with USA Today’s Sergio Non recently, Zuffa CEO Lorenzo Fertitta discussed why the promotion decided that Fox was the right partner to showcase their product and foster the growth that will see MMA accepted by larger culture.
“We look at Fox. They’re, in our opinion, the No. 1 leader in sports. They broadcast the Super Bowl, Major League Baseball, World Series, serious NCAA football. I think the way that they produce those shows, they’re a little bit edgier of a network, even going back to the days when The Simpsons came on; now it’s Family Guy and that whole suite of products. They just seem to be a little bit more attuned to males and young males, which obviously is our demographic,” Fertitta explained.
Fertitta agreed with UFC president Dana White that the UFC is far from achieving mainstream acceptance, but said that he’s hopeful their new platform will help to convert other sports fans, who may or may not be aware of the UFC, into MMA fans.
“I think there’s still a large group of media and large group of just what I’d call sports fans, casual sports fans, that maybe kind of know what UFC is, but they’re not saying, ‘Hey, right now I have to be home to watch this fight.’ That’s what we’re hoping, is to bring millions more people in to see the UFC,” he said. “The whole idea is to draw millions of more fans into the group. If I can convert 100,000 of those millions that will be watching for the first time into customers for the next 20 years, then our investment on Fox has paid off.”
The UFC debuts on Fox next weekend with UFC on Fox 1, which features a heavyweight title fight between champ Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos and will take place at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California.