The UFC announced yesterday that three UFC 125 preliminary fights would air on the Ion TV network. MMA fans might recall that the ill-fated Bodog Fights had a deal with Ion.
Dana White commented:
"I am excited for our fans because I've been looking for ways to broadcast UFC prelims free and to as many homes as possible," UFC President Dana White stated. "ION is the largest broadcast television station group in the U.S. and this deal will put the UFC prelims in almost 100 million homes."
Josh Gross speculated on twitter:
I'd bet UFC 125 prelims on Ion TV have everything to do with the current state of UFC/Spike contract talks. Final year of that deal is 2011.
Ray Hui had more analysis:
While the debut of the UFC on network television can be considered a new landmark for the promotion and the UFC is touting UFC 125 prelims' reach of almost 100 million U.S. households through ION, that number is right there with the basic cable channel Spike TV, which is available in 99.4 million homes.
It also draws curiosity as to why the show isn't airing on Spike TV, the UFC's longtime television partner and usual home of the UFC prelim shows. The current UFC-Spike TV deal will run into 2011, but the two are also currently in negotiations for a new deal. When reached for comment, a Spike TV representative declined to comment on any ongoing contract talks, per company policy.
Zach Arnold has info on how to figure out if your TV system carries the Ion network:
To see if your area has the ION channel on cable or antenna, use Antenna Web or TV Fool or Rabbit Ears. On Rabbit Ears, when you get a list of TV networks on your search, the blue links can be clicked on and you'll get a listing of main channels and sub channels.
The ION network will air three preliminary fights for this Saturday's UFC 125 event from Las Vegas. (ION airs in 720p resolution for over-the-air. If you have a free-to-air set-up with a satellite dish, you can pick up all ION channel feeds including an HD version on bird AMC 1 at 103W. However, the frequency is C band, not Ku band.)
For a complete listing of ION affiliates in the States, click here.
Dana White recently told USA TODAY that the UFC would cut a network deal when they could control the production. Looks like this is that deal since Ion certainly doesn't have a major sports division that will want to get their hands on the UFC.
UPDATE: Micheal David Smith tweets:
UFC preliminary fights on IonTV are a step down from Spike--fewer households, worse demographic.
Ion's demographic is "people who buy things off infomercials"
One possible alternative angle is that Ion could easily become the long-rumored "UFC channel" which would be an audacious and ambitious, but risky, move.