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UFC announces major TV deal in Russia

The UFC has announced a partnership with Russian state television broadcasting company VGTRK, one of the biggest TV networks in Russia. This can be considered a big step in the organization's expansion into Eastern Europe.

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

To date, breaking into the Russian MMA market has always been somewhat of an unattainable task for the Ultimate Fighting Championship. While they are present with live events and television programming in almost every viable market of the world, they have failed to expand into the Russian Federation, yet - a country with over 140 million citizens and a strong interest in all-things combat sports and MMA in particular. That has changed today.

As announced in a press release, the UFC has signed an agreement with "The All-Russia State Television and Radio Broadcasting Company", one of the biggest TV networks in Russia. Starting this Saturday, the network will broadcast all 2015 UFC events on their TV channels and online platforms Russia 2, Sport 1, Fight Club and Sportbox.ru.

David Allen, SVP and General Manager UFC EMEA, said:

"Russia is firmly on our target list as a focal point of MMA within Europe with a fantastic fan-base and great UFC fighters. VGTRK have an impressive background in sport across all of their outlets and their experience and knowledge is evident, we are thrilled to partner with them and look forward to satisfying demand for the UFC and propelling the sport within Russia together."

Alexander Taschin, Head of sports broadcasting of VGTRK, says:

"Martial arts are traditionally very important for our company. We followed the success of the UFC and have noticed a growing interest of the audience in the country, which we expect is due partly to the 20 Russian fighters who participate in UFC championship. UFC offered high-quality content to us and the package of more than 40 events will be a perfect addition to the sports portfolio of VGTRK this year."

Especially Russia 2 is one of the key broadcasters in the Russian Federation, a free TV state channel that is also showing events of UFC competitor and Russian-market leader M-1 Global, with up to 1.5 million viewers per show.

The UFC currently has 20 Russian fighters under contract, most notably lightweight contender Khabib Nurmagomedov. Three of the Russian talents will fight on the upcoming FOX card this Saturday, Konstantin Erokhin, Sultan Aliev and Albert Tumenov all have respective bouts scheduled for the preliminary program of UFC on FOX: Alexander Gustafsson vs. Anthony Johnson in Stockholm, Sweden. The event will mark the first UFC broadcast for VGTRK.