They butchered "The Contender" with highlight reels instead of fights, so color me intrigued but concerned:
The plans appear to involve a reality show that would be taped during the spring, looking at using featherweight, lightweight and middleweight fighters. No other details of the show are available, other then a loose idea of modeling it after "The Contender," the boxing show the network recently dropped.
This would make as many as four different MMA reality shows on the drawing board for next season. Affliction and M-1 Global have announced plans for a heavyweight reality show taped in St. Petersburg, Russia, called "Fighting Fedor." World Extreme Cage Fighting has also talked of doing a reality show on the Versus network, to give the organization more of a presence on the station between live fight cards.
ESPN is interested in several fighters who were with the recently folded Elite XC. But all those fighters are still on hold, as the organization has not released fighters from their contracts. For legal reasons, EXC recently sent several fighters a form letter stating the company was planning shows in 2009.
Industry sources have stated ESPN has offered name fighters both signing bonuses and per-fight guarantees that would be above industry standards for fighters of their caliber.
The other obvious question is what is the UFC going to do about this? Wouldn't this serve as some sort of competition to "The Ultimate Fighter"? While any show would offer more visibility of the sport, the show could offer visibility of fighters not under contract to the UFC not fighting in the Octagon with no mention of the UFC. And if both shows are on at roughly similar times or on a similar seasonal schedule, how is the UFC going to handle the push from what is ostensibly the sporting news leader?
[UPDATE] by Kid Nate
Promotional newcomer Bellator Fighting Championships has secured a broadcast deal with ESPN Deportes to begin airing MMA events as early as April 2009, numerous sources have confirmed to Sherdog.com.
Santa Brito, Communications Manager for ESPN Deportes, confirmed on Monday that the Spanish-language channel is in “the early developmental stages of an MMA program.” Brito would not divulge further information, but clarified that ESPN was currently not developing any MMA programming on its English-language networks.
American Top Team’s Jorge Masvidal and Dream standout Eddie Alvarez have been two of the better-known candidates approached to participate on the Hispanic-focused roster.
Bellator -- which translates to “warrior” in Latin -- is helmed by Bjorn Rebney, former CEO and president of Sugar Ray Leonard Boxing. Rebney and Leonard aired live boxing events on ESPN 2 the first Friday of every month under the “Friday Night Fights” moniker from 2001-2004. The relationship reportedly soured when Leonard departed to join NBC’s “The Contender” series.