Just one month after the UFC and FOX announced its seven-year deal will begin with a Nov. 12 event at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California, the network has already sold out all of its existing commercial slots for the show.
The quick sellout is a positive sign that blue-chip, corporate sponsors are willing to test the waters. In turn, that should mean new opportunities for fighters as well.
"We've gotten more credibility now because we're on FOX with all these big sports leagues," UFC president Dana White said. "The fact these guys are reaching out to these other sponsors and they've had a great response is big not only for us, but for the fighters, too. This will trickle down to everybody. It's a big deal and yes, it's been great and it's only going to get better."
White and FOX Sports president Eric Shanks announced the ad sellout at a press conference launching the event at the W Hollywood Hotel in Hollywood, California.
When asked what type of ratings FOX was expecting from the debut event, Shanks joked that "we have to beat the Two and a Half Men premiere from last night," a show that drew nearly 30 million viewers.
While he wouldn't offer a specific number, he acknowledged that the ad sales are a positive indicator in the interest for the event.
"So the response from the ad sales community has been unbelievable, and we think that'll carry forward to next season," Shanks said.
Meanwhile, Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos were the main attractions, sitting on a stage with "UFC on FOX" and FOX logos behind them.
White reiterated what he's said several times since making the bout, that he specifically chose the fight with total belief that the UFC heavyweight champion and No. 1 contender would put on a show.
"I can guarantee you if this fight goes 30 seconds or 30 minutes, this is going to be a fight right here," White said, eyeing his fighters.
While for Velasquez, it was a relatively short 330-mile trip from his home base of San Jose to Hollywood, dos Santos flew from Brazil to take part. It was clear from the crowd reception that Velasquez will be a massive crowd favorite come fight time, something dos Santos (13-1) acknowledged early on.
"I feel great," he said. "It's good to receive good energy from the guys. It doesn't matter if the people are rooting for me or not. It matters that they're here cheering for the fight, for MMA."
The unbeaten Velasquez hasn't fought since winning the title from Brock Lesnar in a first-round TKO last October. Ironically, that bout was also at the Anaheim Center, and White noted the atmosphere in the arena was electric, something the UFC is expecting again on Nov. 12. After recovering from shoulder surgery, Velasquez said he is engaging in three daily workout sessions that include weight-lifting, sparring, jiu-jitsu and technical refinements.
All of that, stems from his belief in his opponent's skills.
"It's definitely my toughest task," he said. "dos Santos is a great fighter. He has great hands, great power, great boxing. He's looked really tough out there in his previous fights, and it's definitely going to be a tough fight."
While Velasquez and dos Santos will get most of the ink up until fight time, lightweight contenders Ben Henderson and Clay Guida will tangle in the co-main event. White said it's so far undecided where that will air. There is a chance it could end up on the FOX broadcast, or on Facebook, or elsewhere, but for now, the UFC has its full attention on the main event.
"The pressure is on us to deliver," he said. "Meaning [it's on] us and FOX to put out an event that night like you've never seen when it comes to combat sports. [Velasquez and dos Santos] are going to do what they always do. They've been delivering for 10 years, and that's why we're sitting up here today."
While White admitted feeling the pressure, both the champ and challenger said for them, it's just another day at the office. Despite the millions of eyes on them, new sponsors with their checkbooks at the ready, and the belt on the line, for them, it's just another fight.
"I feel no pressure," dos Santos, a big smile crossing his face. "It's what I do. It's what I love to do, and I'll be ready for sure to make a good show."
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