MMA News and Information

ESPN Confirms Details of UFC Deal Worth More than a Billion Dollars

ESPN and UFC

News broke late Tuesday night that FOX was out and ESPN was all-in when it comes to UFC broadcasting rights.

The UFC and ESPN announced in early May that the sports broadcasting giant had acquired the digital streaming rights to 15 UFC Fight Night events per year beginning in 2019. Those Fight Night events were set to be streamed via the new ESPN+ digital subscription service. The latest news revamps that deal a bit.

FOX and UFC Talks Go South

At that time, it was believed that FOX was going to try and keep the UFC on its traditional broadcast and cable networks. That deal fell apart, however, when FOX came to terms with WWE for a $1 billion deal to broadcast its “Smackdown Live” product.

When the FOX deal went south, ESPN swooped in and picked up the pieces, expanding on its digital deal to include its other network properties and increase the number of events from 15 to 30.

ESPN on Wednesday morning confirmed the newly expanded deal, which was first reported by Variety, and clarified the details of the new agreement.

UFC and ESPN Broadcast Details

As noted, the deal is set to begin in January of 2019, picking up immediately after the FOX deal ends. The term of the deal, as noted by MMAWeekly.com’s Damon Martin, is worth $300 million annually for five years, making the five-year deal worth a total of $1.5 billion to the mixed martial arts juggernaut.

The UFC-ESPN rights package includes 30 UFC Fight Night events per year. ESPN’s television networks will broadcast 10 UFC Fight Night main cards per year, while ESPN+will stream the other 20 Fight Night events. Each of the 30 UFC Fight Nights is expected to consist of 12 bouts.

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The UFC will continue to broadcast 12 events per year on pay-per-view, while ESPN networks will air the preliminary bouts leading into the pay-per-view events.

In addition to the UFC live events, ESPN is expected to stream the Dana White Tuesday Night Contenders Series beginning in 2019, as well as shoulder programming, which includes weigh-ins, pre- and post- shows, and the like.

Aung La Nsang Set to Make First ONE Championship Middleweight Title Defense

Aung La Nsang

Aung La Nsang will make the first defense of his middleweight belt at ONE: Spirit of a Warrior in Yangon next month. The two-division champion faces promotional newcomer Ken Hasegawa at the Thuwunna Indoor Stadium on June 29.

La Nsang (22-10-0-1) has not fought at middleweight since winning the belt last June. In his last match, the Burmese-born mixed martial artist claimed the inaugural ONE light heavyweight title with a first-round stoppage win against Alexandre Machado.

His opponent is a former Deep ‘megaton’ champion, but is now competing at middleweight. Hasegawa (16-2-1) has also fought for Rizin and Titan FC and reached the final of the Deep welterweight tournament last year.

La Nsang had originally been expected to face Leandro Ataides, who stopped former champion Vitaly Bigdash in some style earlier this month. However, the Brazilian decided that June 29 represented too quick a turnaround and will presumably wait in the wings to face the winner.

TRENDING > Report: ESPN Inks Deal with UFC for Entire Television Package Worth $1.5 Billion

ONE Fight Highlights: Aung La Nsang Head Kicks His Way to Second Title

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Phil Davis Wants the Bellator Belt Back: ‘I Want it Back Yesterday!’

While light-heavyweight Phil Davis was able to close out his 2017 with a win, it was his loss to start off the year that left a big impression on his career.

Defending his Bellator 205-pound championship against Ryan Bader in June of last year, Davis ended up on the losing end of a split-decision, costing him the title he had won in his previous bout.

“I’ve got to get that belt back,” Davis told MMAWeekly.com. “It was great to say that I was Phil Davis, the champion, the champion of the entire world, and I can’t do that right now.

Phil Davis vs King Mo“I can walk around and say I am Phil Davis; I was champion of the world, but not anymore. I’m not going to go out like that. I’m going to get that bad boy back.”

For Davis, rebounding with a unanimous decision over Leo Leite in November was a sign that he’s very much still a title caliber fighter and that he’s not going away anytime soon.

“It all starts with getting that first win and getting back in the win column and getting your hand raised,” said Davis. “Really let the fans know that I was the top guy in the division for a reason and that I’m a guy who should be challenging for the belt.”

Davis (18-4) will look to keep his momentum going when he faces Linton Vassell (19-6) in a main card 205-pound bout at Bellator 200 in London on Friday.

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“To get the win, I just have to stay focused and let (Vassell) know right away that this is not the match-up he thought it should be,” Davis said. “From there, it should be a slippery slope straight to getting my hand raised.”

While Davis is not setting a definitive timetable on when he feels he should get a chance to reclaim his title, he would like his opportunity to come sooner than later.

“I hope to get the belt back before year’s end, but it’s not my call,” said Davis. “I’m going to try my best to get that done.

“I want that belt back, I want it back yesterday – it’s that simple. If I have to wait, I’ll wait, but I want that bad boy back.”

Things Get Tense at Bellator 200 Media Day Staredowns

Rafael Carvalho vs Gegard Mousasi Bellator 200 faceoff

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(Courtesy of MMAFightingonSBN)

Though Bellator 200 lost its heavyweight showdown between Mirko Cro Cop and Roy Nelson, there was no lacking for intensity at Wednesday’s Bellator 200 Media Day.

Ahead of Friday’s fights in London, the Bellator 200 main card fighters met with the media and then faced off for photographers.

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The staredowns, from top to bottom, were dripping with intensity. Main eventers Rafael Carvalho and Gegard Mousasi kept it cordial, but there was an unspoken tension between them, as they prepare to do battle for Carvalho’s Bellator middleweight title.

Fabricio Werdum Comments on Potential UFC Anti-Doping Policy Violation

Fabricio Werdum UFC 216

Fabricio Werdum on Tuesday was notified by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency of a potential UFC Anti-Doping Policy violation. On Wednesday, he issued a statement, proclaiming the potential violation to be a “misunderstanding.”

The potential violation stems from an out-of-competition drug test sample collection performed on April 25. 

“The UFC organization was notified today that the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) has informed Fabricio Werdum of a potential Anti-Doping Policy violation stemming from an out-of-competition sample collected on April 25, 2018,” UFC officials wrote in a statement revealing the potential violation.

No further details were released, but Werdum had something to say about it.

“Hey guys, I got up this morning to the news that one of my urine samples from April tested positive for a prohibited substance. I am working with my team, the UFC and USADA to understand what happened,” Werdum wrote on Facebook.

TRENDING > ESPN Confirms Details of UFC Deal Worth More than a Billion Dollars

“I’ve always been careful with everything I take and I’ve always supported a clean sport. We will work hard to solve this misunderstanding and I hope soon to be able to go back to the octagon and do what I love.”

The potential violation is horrible timing for Werdum, as news broke on Monday that he was expected to headline the UFC’s first event in Russia in a bout opposite Alexey Oleynik. Considering that it typically takes USADA several months to adjudicate a UFC Anti-Doping Policy violation, it puts the planned Sept. 15 bout at grave risk of being canceled.

 

UFC Will Maintain Production Control Over Events on ESPN

Dana White - UFC 217

ESPN will become the exclusive home to the UFC in 2019 but don’t expect the events to look that much different from what currently airs on FOX.

ESPN will pay the UFC approximately $300 million per year for 30 live UFC Fight Night events as well as 12 pay-per-view preliminary cards but the Disney owned company will not be in charge of production.

UFC president Dana White revealed in a conversation with ESPN on Wednesday that the company will still produce all of their own events just like they do on FOX currently.

“The fans are happy with the way our show is presented, and the networks are too, which is why we get these deals done,” White said. “Our production is incredible, we do an amazing job and we’ll continue to.”

It’s a bit surprising considering rumors had swirled that part of the negotiation to bring the UFC to a new network was handing over production control.

White and former owners Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta were adamant about maintaining control of production over UFC shows and kept that in line when signing the seven year deal with FOX back in 2011.

ESPN typically produces all of the sports programming on their network but it appears that won’t be the case when the UFC comes there in 2019.

That means the look and feel of the UFC cards will be seamless from FOX to ESPN and it’s likely there won’t be much different when it comes to the broadcast teams either.

As of now there’s still no official word on additional UFC programming on ESPN such as a show similar to “UFC Tonight”, which currently airs on FS1. There will be pre and post fight shows that will air on ESPN or ESPN+ starting with the deal in 2019.

Georges St-Pierre Shoots Down Nate Diaz Fight on Joe Rogan’s Podcast

Georges St-Pierre - Nate Diaz

The UFC may want to put together a fight between Georges St-Pierre and Nate Diaz, but they seem to be the only ones. Fans and pundits were immediately critical when UFC president Dana White revealed he was trying to make the fight, and now both combatants have shot it down.

Diaz has played St-Pierre off as his brother Nick’s fight, not his, additionally claiming St-Pierre was on steroids when he fought his brother. And now, St-Pierre has shot down the bout as well. 

St-Pierre, in an appearance on Joe Rogan’s podcast, confirmed that he has no intention of ever returning to middleweight, but was elusive on what comes next for him. The one thing he was adamant about was that he did not want to fight Nate Diaz.

“I just turned 37 a few days ago. I don’t have much left. For what I have left, I want to make the big fight. The fight that fans want to see. I also want personally for me to achieve something that is unique, that is rare. That maybe never been attempted before. That would be something that excites me,” said St-Pierre.

Dana White - Georges St-Pierre - Nate Diaz“They offer me Nate Diaz, now. There was a rumor, they said it was a done deal. Not on my part. And I don’t think it was on Nate Diaz’s part as well.”

It’s not that St-Pierre doesn’t think Diaz is a good fighter, to the contrary, he sang Diaz’s praises, but he doesn’t think fighting someone of Diaz’s ilk at 155 pounds makes sense. It would likely pay him big money, but it’s not a fight that excites St-Pierre or he feels adds to his legacy, which is why he is considering returning to the Octagon once again.

“Nate Diaz is an incredible fighter, very well rounded. However, if you put yourself in my shoes, there is nothing good that can come out of it except money. And money is not the only thing that drive me,” St-Pierre admitted.

“If I beat Nate Diaz decisively, most people will say, ‘Oh, he took an easy fight. Oh, he’s a bully.’ (Diaz) is a big guy. He’s about the same size as me, but because I compete at 170 for most of my career (and Diaz has fought mostly at 155), it will make me look bad. It will make me look like a bully. That’s if I win decisively. If I win, not decisively, it’s a war back and forth, ‘ahh, he sucks.’ And if I get beat, oh my god, forget it. It’s the end of the world.”

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Admitting that the UFC offered him the fight, St-Pierre said that he considered it, but ultimately decided it wasn’t a fight that was worth cutting into the limited amount of time that he has left in his career.

“I considered it. However, I analyze it, I talk with Firas (Zahabi), with my trainer and everybody, we’re all on the same page on that (fight). It’s not worth it.”

Back to the drawing board.

Hailey Cowan Plans to ‘Showcase a Little Bit of Everything’ in Pro Debut

After a successful stint in the amateur ranks, flyweight prospect Hailey Cowan felt like now was the right time for her to turn pro.

For Cowan the main things she is taking from her time in the amateurs is how well her coaching prepared her for fights, and how she was able to translate what she had done in the gym into the cage.

“I learned how great my coach, Jake Brennan, is,” Cowan told MMAWeekly.com. “You see what he put into you and how successful it was for you in the cage against your opponents; his knowledge and his ability to prepare me for fights.

“The thing for me was that I just needed the cage time. I get in a lot of rounds in the gym, but it’s different when you’re in the actual cage in an actual fight. I think the biggest thing I got from my amateur career was not only cage time, and the confidence not only in myself, but also in my coaches.”

Coming into MMA after a standout collegiate career in acrobatics and tumbling, Cowan feels it also helped give her a leg up on other fighters who might not have had the high level experience in athletics she had.

“Just the foundational strength and the balance and the ability to compete under pressure; I learned all that in acrobatics and tumbling, and it translates perfectly to MMA,” said Cowan. “I have yet to meet a girl who as physically strong as me.

“The fact I did gymnastics as such a high level and did really well there; I really understood what it took to be a fighter. I understood all the hours in the gym. I understood how to eat a strict diet. I understood the discipline and the sacrifices a fighter has to make.”

For her 125-pound pro debut this Friday in Dallas at LFA 40, Cowan (0-0) will face fellow debutant Victoria Leonardo (0-0) in a bout that was originally to have happened last year in the amateur ranks.

TRENDING > Georges St-Pierre Shoots Down Nate Diaz Fight on Joe Rogan’s Podcast

“I prepared for (Leonardo) about six weeks last time, and this time I’ve got about nine weeks to prepare for her, and I’m a big game planner, so I’ve had 15 weeks to build a game plan and perfect it,” Cowan said.

“I feel very comfortable with the opponent. I know she’s tough. But I’m really confident in my skill and my game plan and my corner. I think it’s going to be a fun fight to where I can go out there and showcase a little bit of everything.”

Though she’s just starting out her career, Cowan has been earmarked by many as a future star. Having competed for such a long time at high levels before, Cowan feels she can more than handle the expectations placed on her.

“It excites me that people see in me the dream that I have and they’re seeing it could happen too potentially,” said Cowan. “It excites me and it doesn’t make me nervous or add any extra pressure or anything like that.”

Take a Look Back at Khabib Nurmagomedov’s Crazy UFC 223 Event Week

(Courtesy of UFC)

In this episode of UFC Connected, follow the fight week of Khabib Nurmagomedov on his way to becoming the undisputed lightweight champion at UFC 223.

The fight week started with Nurmagomedov’s originally opponent Tony Ferguson having to pull out of the title fight after suffering a knee injury. Featherweight champion Max Holloway agreed to step in.

Khabib and other UFC fighters then had to endure Conor McGregor’s media day meltdown before moving on to weigh-ins, where things underwent another traumatic shift.

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Holloway was removed from the bout with Khabib due to weight cutting issues. Finally, Nurmagomedov faced Al Iaquinta and captured the lightweight title.

Watch Fedor Topple 7-Foot-2 Hong Man Choi (AXS TV Fight Video)

Fedor Emelianenk vs Hong Man Choi at Yarennoka

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(Video courtesy of UFC on FOX | Viewing may be limited by broadcast rights restrictions)

New Year’s Eve events in Japan used to be the high point of the year in combat sports. While Pride forged the way in Japan with a tremendous stable of fighters, New Year’s Eve was always the pinnacle. 

Often times, however, the spectacle was much more on display than the sport. 

When Fedor Emelianenko stepped into the ring at Yarennoka, an event that arose out of the demise of Pride FC on New Year’s Eve in 2007, he did so opposite a man that was more than a foot taller and 100 pounds heavier. 

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Though Hong Man Choi found himself on top of Fedor more than once in the bout, the Last Emperor still found a way to finish the gigantic Korean fighter, making for one of the more memorable moments in AXS TV Fights’ history as the program prepares for its 400th live broadcast on Friday.