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UFC plans to have weekly live events on Fight Pass in near future

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

With UFC's Fight Pass being about a year-and-a-half old, Eric Winter, who has been hired to oversee the project, has a very simple philosophy.

"Live content rules," said Winter, who was hired from Yahoo several weeks ago as the new Senior Vice President and General Manager for UFC Fight Pass.

Winter is looking at a future where there is a full fight card every week on the service, and is looking at technological advances for a planned heavily promoted relaunch early next year.

"I owe them a strategic plan for 2016," Winter said. "I presented them my knowledge of Fight Pass to date and what I'm going to execute. It's a little early to share, but you may hear some news in the upcoming days and the next week of some cool live streaming stuff. The goal is live streaming with kick ass technology.

"You could have the best content in the world, but it's like you can create the best cars for the highway, but if the roads are filled with potholes, the car isn't going to want to drive down our road."

From a content standpoint, the key driver of subscriptions are the live events.

"We know we have to offer more live streaming than our competition," he said. "Not just our MMA competition, but any sports streaming business out there. We have to have live streaming not only on a weekly basis but a daily basis. That's expected.

"There are 40 UFC events next year, and every single one will have a Fight Pass component. Four of them will be Fight Pass exclusives. This year, we've got exclusive shows from Dublin (Oct. 24) and South Korea (Nov. 28). Maybe we'll get another Fight Pass exclusive event by the end of the year."

Part of it is learning about streaming service customers, who unless the event is live, are going to watch it at their own convenience, rather than television where most watch programming at their set time.

"The beauty of those who are not traditional cable or satellite customers is they don't want to sit down on Wednesday at 8 p.m. to watch a show," he said. "But the foundation is live streaming. There has to be a scheduled programming time. Right now we're still in the nascent stages of building this business. We should have more than 20 organizations signed as content partners. We'll be announcing new organizations soon. I don't think we have the regularity that I want and I think that we need, and that we owe to our consumers. We have to have events every Friday or every Saturday, live streaming content, and we're not there yet."

While the streaming service has a September theme, "Powered by Ronda," it also features live events from four different promotions aside from prelims from UFC shows on Sept. 5 and Sept. 26.

Included this month is Invicta, which Winter said is the most popular non-UFC event that they air.

"Invicta does tremendous numbers, the weigh-ins, press conferences or the live fights," he said. "It's not if Eric Winter loves or executives like it, the audience wants it. They dictate the type of content and where."

They will live stream Invicta FC 14 on Sept. 12 from Kansas City, Mo., headlined by Tonya Evinger (15-6) defending the bantamweight title against Pannie Kianzad (8-0) of Iran; Titan FC 35 on Sept. 19 from Ridgefield, Wash., headlined by former UFC fighter Pat Healy (31-18) facing former Bellator title contender Rick Hawn (20-4) for their lightweight title; a EFN MMA show from Moscow, Russia on Sept. 25, and Shooto Brazil 57 on Sept. 27.

It also debuts weekly new episodes of The Road to UFC Japan, a show that was created for Japanese television, and the current season of The Ultimate Fighter: Latin America, which airs on television in Mexico, as well as a number of countries in South and Central America.

Where Ronda Rousey fits in is that they are going to showcase all of her championship fights, as well as most of the fights of her career, including the UFC 190 main event where she defeated Bethe Correia in 34 seconds. One of the changes in the service is getting the pay-per-view fights streaming with a quicker turnaround. It had formerly been 90 days after a show when it would air on Fight Pass. But the Rousey vs. Correia main event is up after only one month.

There will be a package where Rousey's last eight fights, starting with her 2012 Strikeforce bantamweight title win over Miesha Tate, are presented, in order, in a back-to-back format.

They are also debuting a new series called "The 3rd Degree with Kyra Gracie," where the third degree Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt goes around the world to gyms in martial arts that in most cases she's got no familiarity with, to study different fighting styles.

The first episode, which will debut Tuesday, has her going to Brazil and training BJJ. In the second episode, which also premiered Saturday, she goes to the Don Nacho Gym in Mexico City to learn Mexican-style boxing. The first season of the show will include her studying a wide variety of styles, including kickboxing, Greco-Roman wrestling, and Lancashire-style catch wrestling, a submission form that was popularized in the last century in England that Josh Barnett studied under once of its greatest champions, the late Billy Robinson.

There will be a UFC champions panel, which started this past Sunday, hosted by Mike Goldberg and Megan Olivi, featuring Fabricio Werdum, Chris Weidman, Rafael dos Anjos, Demetrious Johnson and Joanna Jedrzejczyk.

There will be a Women of the UFC panel, debuting on Sept. 11 with Paige VanZant, Rose Namajunas, Julianna Pena and Liz Carmouche.

There will be a Legends of the UFC panel debuting on Sept. 13, with Chuck Liddell, Matt Hughes, Pat Miletich, Oleg Taktarov, Don Frye, Paul Varelans, Guy Mezger and Gary Goodridge.

There will also be a Pioneers of MMA special on Bas Rutten on Sept. 15, which features every Rutten fight, in order, from his first fights in Japan to his final comeback fight at the 2006 World Fighting Alliance show.

There is a Fightography show debuting Sept. 23 with B.J. Penn, featuring every Penn UFC fight and an interview with Penn talking about his career.

"B.J. Penn, for example, sat down for an interview before the Hall of Fame announcement," Winter said. "We took all that great content. You're going to see a human side of B.J. Penn and an honest side of B.J. Penn that a lot of people haven't seen before."

Winter said that the Fightography interview series is the most popular non-live event programming on the station, and noted it's far ahead of whatever is No. 2.

"I've got a 140-page document sitting in front of me, filled with beautiful designs and wire frames," he said. "One of the single most important features of the technology update will be the search functionality. Based on searches and search terms, we know what people want. We know Conor (McGregor) spikes heavily going into UFC 189, and Ronda spikes heavily at UFC 190."

Winter is the first person UFC has hired specifically for Fight Pass.

"I'm the first full-time employee of UFC Fight Pass," he said. "The product has been stood up by ten men and women who were working on it in their spare time. This isn't a 9-to-5 company. This is a seven-day-a-week organization."

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