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BY MOLLY HULSEY After 18 years on pay-per-view, the Ultimate Fighting Championship made its network debut Saturday night, and critics say it was a knockout - in more ways than one. First-- there’s the knockout blow Junior Dos Santos delivered to defending heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez. And second-- there are the sky high ratings-- the network debut was the most-watched live hour ever for mixed martial arts in the U.S. USA Today reports... “UFC pulled a household rating of 4.3 for [the male 18-to-34 demographic], better than any college football telecast this season except for last week's game between the University of Alabama and Louisiana State University.” The deal between UFC and Fox doesn’t actually begin until January, but UFC president Dana White chose to deliver the heavyweight title fight to the network for free. A writer for Bleacher Report says this call was all about the future. “Realistically, the UFC made a great decision tonight by putting this fight on for free. As White mentioned in an interview with MMA Fighting, tonight wasn’t making a one-night profit. It was about establishing the business to a bigger audience.” But was a fight that only lasted 64 seconds the best way to introduce the sport to a broader audience? One Sports Illustrated writer isn’t sure. “So what kind of impression did the UFC make on... folks at home?...there wasn't anything in it that a casual observer might view as anything more skilled than a barroom brawl. Of course, that's not a fair assessment... but viewers new to the sport wouldn't necessarily recognize that.” While many analysts are scrutinizing the debut, ESPN’s Josh Gross says UFC fighting just needs to do one thing - be itself. “You know what’s bad for the sport? Acting as if MMA is something it’s not. Acting like airing only one fight on network television is somehow a travesty. The hurdles and traps and moats that slowed MMA from meeting its widest possible audience, they don’t matter anymore.” The UFC - Fox deal will bring four live events to the network each year as well as additional programming on FX, Fuel TV and Fox Sports Net, for a reported $100 million per year over seven years.
15 Nov 2011
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