UFC to Stream on Facebook 'Fight for the Troops' Preliminary Bouts

Not all of the preliminary fights will be aired, but at least two of them. From their press release:

The opportunity to watch two live prelim fights for free from UFC® Fight For The Troops 2 is now only a click away. The Ultimate Fighting Championship® announced today that fans will have the ability to watch two exciting UFC contests on Saturday, Jan. 22 at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT by simply clicking the "Like" button on the official UFC Facebook page.

By liking Facebook.com/UFC, fans will gain access to a live stream of the lightweight battle between Cody McKenzie (12-0) of The Ultimate Fighter®and veteran Yves Edwards (39-16-1), as well as a pivotal welterweight clash pitting TUF alum DaMarques Johnson (16-8) against Mike "The Joker" Guymon (13-4-1). Fans that do not have a Facebook account are encouraged to sign up at www.facebook.com.

"I'm always looking for ways to give fans fights for free and this is just another example of that," UFC President Dana White said. "Facebook is such a great tool for people to stay connected and we're excited to put two live fights on our UFC page for free."

Following these bouts, fans can tune in to Spike TV at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT to watch the live broadcast of the Fight For The Troops 2 main card from Fort Hood, Texas. The card is headlined by lightweight battle between Evan Dunham (11-1) and Melvin Guillard (44-9-3, 1 NC).

In addition to the live stream of two prelims on Facebook and the broadcast on Spike, UFC is hosting an online auction that will raise funds for the brave men and women in the United States Armed Forces with traumatic brain injuries. Prizes include the chance to attend the premiere of season 8 of the hit show Entourage, as well as the chance to meet Philadelphia Phillies centerfield Shane Victorino and attend a Major League Baseball game as his guest. For more information on the available prizes, please visit: www.fightforthetroops.com. The deadline for bids is Monday, Jan. 24.

I think this is absolutely genius. You'd be hard pressed to argue other sports leagues more meaningfully and successfully integrate their operations with social media and web 2.0 efforts.

In fact, you wonder why other sports leagues don't try out more efforts like this. The reality is that social media is very much an open frontier where best practices are not fully sorted out. And with technology like LiveStream allowing virtually anyone to stream video directly from their Facebook wall, any MMA promotion of virtually any size can reach a wider audience than they currently draw in.

The UFC is clearly trying to up the number of social media subscribers by getting users to "like" their Facebook page in order to watch the prelim. We'll try to keep a tally of how many they add before and after the program and will report back.

Everyone makes note of Dana White's Twitter as the ultimate evidence of the UFC's online media savvy, but investment in Facebook is equally, if not more, important. The site is now larger than Yahoo and peak traffic opens early on Saturday, which dovetails nicely with anticipation of MMA's Saturday night fights business model. The more the UFC can put itself in front of where key demos of their audience and sports fans spend their time, the better for them.

Let's see what other MMA organizations do in 2011 to keep up with the UFC's lead. As a tech junkie, this is all too exciting. And while we're at it, we're on Facebook, too.

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