With the upcoming premiere of Fox’s new all sports endeavor, Fox Sports 1, it seems fitting to acknowledge what it means for the UFC. For years, Spike was the home to all UFC programming and it was a mutually advantageous relationship for both parties. Viewers formed an association between the two and knew to change the channel to Spike for UFC related content. Ultimately, the promotion left Spike at the end of 2011 and signed a 7-year deal with Fox.
Since the move to Fox, the UFC has struggled to find a home on one network. Fuel TV has expanded its reach and viewership since becoming the network with the most UFC content, airing shows such as UFC Tonight, UFC Ultimate Insider and others. The network has certainly made the effort to become the home of the UFC despite only being available in roughly 26 million US homes compared to the approximately 99 million homes that Spike reaches. Also, another Fox platform, FX, airs the flagship television show, The Ultimate Fighter, it is difficult to make the claim of the being the home of the UFC.
Another issue caused by this lack of a base network is the way that the prelim and main fights have been spread across multiple Fox platforms. For example, Fuel TV cards (which are not available to many fans) start with Facebook prelims and then move to Fuel TV for the main card. FX cards start on Facebook and move to Fuel TV for some prelims, finishing up on FX for the main card. Fox cards start on Facebook, move to FX and then Fox. Got all that? It’s hard for the casual fan to keep up as well.
It is worth nothing that the relationship between the UFC and Fox is barely two years old, and there were bound to be some growing pains. Kudos to the UFC and Fox brass for acknowledging that the promotion needed a home where fans throughout the US can find UFC content. A major bonus from the move to Fox is the increasing number of free fights that are now available to fans and it appears as though that will continue to grow. Now if only we can figure out a new way to name these UFC on Fox Sports 1 shows…