With the UFC preparing to leave Spike TV at the end of the year it’s been widely rumored that the networks execs have their eye on the Bellator Fighting Championships promotion which currently resides on MTV2.
Those rumors appeared to be at least partially confirmed when Bellator announced that for the duration of their fifth season spiketv.com would be airing their preliminary bouts for free.
A switch to Spike in 2012 for the beginning of their 6th season seems like the perfect move for Bellator, but there’s a catch – Spike still have the rights to the UFC’s existing library (including past events, old seasons of TUF and more) until the end of next year, and they can’t bring in another MMA promotion until that deal expires unless they can come to an agreement with the UFC to sell them back their footage.
When UFC president Dana White was asked about this in an interview with MMAfighting’s Ariel Helwani a couple of days ago he indicated that they have no plans to do so.
“UFC programming will be on Spike in 2012. It will continue there.” White confirmed.
If they stick to that decision then it brings with it both positives and negatives. For one thing it hinders Bellator’s progress ensuring they don’t move in and steal some of the UFC’s fan-base. It also means that they will have a broader reach, with past programming continuing on Spike while they deliver new content for FOX, FX and Fuel TV.
The downside is that FOX won’t have access to their past shows for the first year of their deal, and there’s also a real risk that Spike will start to counter-program their shows on the network with past UFC events. That’s something Spike have done successfully recently, with a re-run of UFC Fight Night 22 drawing 793,000 viewers while a live broadcast of UFC On Versus 4 could only muster 744,000, and they’ve threatened to do it again.
Naturally White isn’t enamored with the idea of the network counter-programming his events.
“The thing is, you have to understand, in my opinion it’s Spike not being honorable. They’re not being honorable. And they know. Kevin knows, Brian, all the guys who have dealt with me at Spike TV, I’ve been nothing but honorable with them.”
Personally I still hope they can put aside their differences and come to a deal before the end of the year that will see the UFC buy back their programming and allow Bellator to get the opportunity to be on Spike TV as that’s the best thing for the sport as a whole.
With relations between the two companies being at an all-time low however you certainly wouldn’t count on it happening.