Dana White: UFC will be on Spike TV in 2012, Spike Not Honoring “Spirit of the Deal”, & Strikeforce’s Future

September 22, 2011

During UFC 135’s press conference, MMAFighting’s Ariel Helwani spoke to UFC President Dana White regarding their current relationship with Spike TV, Bellator airing on Spike.com, and what we can expect from UFC shoulder programming in 2012.

Spike currently owns the UFC library through 2012, and by doing so, cannot air content from another MMA promotion – such as Bellator – until the deal expires or UFC buys back the library.  When Helwani asked White if the UFC was planning on buying the library back from Spike, he firmly stated that the “UFC will be on Spike TV in 2012”.  That of course means that Spike would then be contractually obligated to UFC programming throughout next year and Bellator would stay on MTV 2 and Spike.com until the life of the contract expires.

When Dana was asked about Bellator airing on Spike.com on the same day as UFC live programming, white stated the following:

“If you really look at what I call ‘the spirit of the deal’, it’s the wrong thing to do. The thing is, you have to understand, in my opinion it’s Spike not being honorable. They’re not being honorable. And they know. Kevin knows, Brian, all the guys who have dealt with me at Spike TV, I’ve been nothing but honorable with them. Everything that I did was to build the UFC and Spike TV. I’ve been a fantastic partner. Whatever they’ve needed from me I’ve done for them and helped them get to where they are today, just like they’ve helped us get to where we are today. And what they’re doing, if that’s the case, and they’re running these things on Spike.com, that’s not the spirit of the deal and they are being 100% not honorable. “

In terms of Strikeforce and their future, White stated that their existence relies completely on whether Showtime wants to stay in the MMA business.  Their deal is up on February/March of 2012 and a decision of whether to exercise a 2-year option – which would extend the current TV deal until 2014 – has to come from Showtime by the end of October.

When asked about Women’s MMA, White suggested that Women’s MMA will be promoted under the Zuffa banner “as long as Strikeforce is around”. Since ZUFFA acquired Strikeforce,  their champions and most marketable fighters – Nick Diaz, Alistair Overeem, and Dan Henderson to name a few – have since signed to fight in the UFC and have vacated their Strikeforce belts. Cung Le, another main staple in Strikeforce, is scheduled to be part of the UFC 139 co-main event, which will take place in San Jose, Strikeforce’s old home-base.


Payout Perspective:

The library rights that Spike currently owns is a key chess piece here being utilized by the UFC and Spike.  By keeping UFC programming on Spike, they can continue to distribute their content on Spike, which is synonymous to many as the home of MMA and the UFC.  They are also essentially keeping Bellator off of Spike for another year.  At the same time, Spike can use UFC’s programming to counter live events which will be shown on FOX, FX, and Fuel TV.  They can also use UFC programming to promote Bellator on MTV 2 and Spike.com, which they have been doing for months now, ever since negotiating a future deal with the UFC earlier this year.

As for UFC’s new partner, FOX, keeping the library on Spike prevents FX and Fuel TV from airing any shoulder programming, which will make it that much tougher to convert current Spike viewers to switch over.  Without having access to shows like Unleashed, previous TUF seasons, and old UFC events, Fuel TV and FX will have to solely rely on live events in 2012, which will not produce enough programming to get MMA fans to tune in to FX or Fuel TV on a regular basis to catch UFC programming, as they have become accustomed to at Spike TV.

In the end, it seems that UFC programming will be on multiple platforms in 2012.  The problem is that this scenario creates an interesting transitional stage for the UFC.  We can already see this with the first UFC on FOX event, which will only feature one bout.  The co-main event of Ben Henderson vs Clay Guida currently has no TV platform because Spike still has rights to UFC content through 2011, with the exception of the UFC doing network events.  FX and Fuel TV are cable channels, which is in the same tier as Spike TV. Unless FOX or another network channel – highly doubtful – chooses to air the prelims, we will most likely see the co-main event and other prelims on the card air on Facebook or on one of FOX’s website, which is a huge blow to the fighters and their sponsors.  The exception would be if the main event – Cain Velasquez vs Junior Dos Santos – ends quick enough so that FOX can try and air some prelims, but there’s not much of a guarantee with a 1-hour time slot.

18 Responses to “Dana White: UFC will be on Spike TV in 2012, Spike Not Honoring “Spirit of the Deal”, & Strikeforce’s Future”

  1. Brad Wharton on September 22nd, 2011 7:13 PM

    Probably a silly question…

    Spike hold the right to the UFC programming library (Unleashed, TUF, full events etc)…but do they have sole fights to air UFC fight footage?

    Is there anything to stop the UFC putting together an entirely new series for Fox called ‘UFC: Ultimate Beatdowns’ (or something suitably absurd) made up of past fights? How about if the fights were show in ‘highlight’ form, with fighters talking over them?

  2. Jose Mendoza on September 22nd, 2011 9:18 PM

    Brad Wharton,

    I don’t think it’s rights to the show, it’s rights to the fights itself, so I would think no. Spike has rights to non-live UFC programming throughout 2012. They have rights to live and old programming through 2011 per their current contract, which has some outs such as Versus airing some events and major Networks.

  3. Bill Jennings on September 22nd, 2011 10:28 PM

    by 2013 spike will be known as the UFC rerun network. Even if bellator lasts by then, spike will be a shell of its former self in terms of MMA leverage.

  4. Jose Mendoza on September 22nd, 2011 11:53 PM


    Well, the UFC was going to leave for greener pastures no matter what, so Spike has to do something here. Same with Showtime. UFC wants Showtime to pay more than what they are currently paying for an inferior product (no champs or big rating draws now). If Showtime wants to stay in the MMA business, they’ll have to figure something out as well without Strikeforce.

  5. GrimsGrind on September 23rd, 2011 5:11 AM

    I hope to see Showtime dish out the money that’s needed in order to keep SF around. (because that’s the whole shmeal, is SHO willing to pay Zuffa enough money to keep SF on their network) IF they are. I hope Lorenzo really revamps Strikeforce and makes it much more marketable. As a Showtime Customer, I can tell you I would get rid of my subscription and get HBO if they took it off….Strikeforce is the main reason I pay for Showtime.

  6. Mossman on September 23rd, 2011 7:42 AM

    Brad – Spike was the exclusive distributor of free, PAST UFC content. Check it out… even UFc.com, you have to pay for the archives. The exception to the deal is sponsor supported “access” or video libraries, as they can get around the definition of “Free programming”. If it is sponsored, then the UFC is not technically showing it for free, because someone is paying (Thanks Edge!).

    Spike has the rights to distribution of all content that is not “live”…for free… through the remainder of their agreement.

    I agree with Jose, this is going to put them in a sticky situation because you know damn well Spike will counter program any live event broadcasts on Fox… and since the UFC believes they don’t need to educate their fans on where you can find the live content… there will be some attrition… however the sheer number of audiences who would normally watch Fox in that time slot will make up for it.

    I also believe some UFC has some of the control behind the time slot situation and how much content they will actually distribute for free on Fox, FX, and Fuel.

    Its no surprise that they have reached a point in this country that they are over saturating the market… If they want to continue the PPV model and enjoying the revenue they are used to, there comes a point when you are giving out too much for free. The fact that the number of PPVs a year has almost doubled from 3 or 4 years ago is hurting them overall and now with the widely accessible free content on Fox… fans in a recession may say… screw it, im not spending the $55.

    Look at the reported PPV buy numbers and amount of fight cards… they continue to decline for a reason… there is just TOO much. The only time they will get even close to the 1.6M mark from UFC 100 will be the Silva/GSP fight that will never happen.

    The second factor to this is that as much as the UFC gets that it is a great “brand”…it seems they have no clue on how to continue to develop that brand.

    You have the hardcore fans already… its going to happen. And all of their marketing is pushed toward getting the same 2 million people to pay for a PPV fight every two weeks… What are they doing to fill the funnel with new consumers? Besides the obvious of switching to the Fox platform, which they hope will bring a new audience. They do nothing to go out and recruit a new pool of money. And unfortunately with the price of being a fan of this sport… and the strain on people’s wallets… you lose fans little by little because they cant continue to spend $55 every two or three weeks… or they start becoming selective… or worse for Zuffa… say screw it… i will just watch the free shit.

    Their inability to continue to cultivate the brand and develop new fans will be a huge downfall and we may see a plateau in the not to distant future…

  7. chris on September 23rd, 2011 10:32 AM

    i believe i read somewhere there ppv sales are down an averate 150k per show, thats quite a bit. i also beleive at 55. a pop fans are going to be more selective now. on to what they pay for.

    i remember when pride and ufc were like 20 each.

  8. Jose Mendoza on September 23rd, 2011 10:38 AM


    Excellent points made. If UFC 135 does less than 500K PPV buys and no real impact is made on future UFC PPV’s after the UFC on FOX event, things will start getting interesting real quick.

    They may not have Lesnar around for too much longer and then it’s really GSP as the UFC’s main PPV draw. Anderson Silva only has a few years left, so it will be crucial for them to be able to create stars and PPV draws on the FOX platforms.


    According to my calculations, its more than 150K. The UFC is actually down 170K from their average last year and unless they get UFC 137, 139, and 141 to do more than 1 million buys, they won’t even come close to 2010 numbers, and probably not beat 2009 numbers either.

  9. chris on September 23rd, 2011 10:47 AM

    Jose wow thats alot.

    im curious as to how they will run now, i think danas biggest fear is
    will they be able to replace there big draws now with new stars.
    brock is a 50/50 if he gets kod in brutal fashion against overeem i think his
    drawing power will go way down. also like you said anderson will not be around
    long. i dont think as of right now any of the ufcs young new fighters have shown
    to be a big draw on ppv. also i think fans now are getting more fickle with ppv
    prices at 55 a pop. im a hard core fan and have been watchign the sport
    since it debuted in 1994, i bought every single ppv up till 2010.

  10. Blade on September 23rd, 2011 4:21 PM

    I think the majority of people agree that if Overeem beats Brock, Brock will leave to go back to the WWE. I believe even Dana feels this way and that was apparent in his “GSP is the PPV king” statement. So that really only leaves Silva and GSP as the draws of the company.

    That makes it all the more important to have a national minor league for the UFC. The biggest sports in America all have national minor leagues to showcase new talent. NFL and NBA have NCAA, Nascar has the Nationwide Series, etc.

    I believe the best option would be to rebrand Strikeforce to the “UFC Challengers Series” and continue it on Showtime. Showtime would get the UFC brand name…which is far more attractive to potential viewers and advertisers…and UFC would have their rising stars on a major channel.

    The Challenger Series could even continue to have the women’s division and titles…the only titles that should be in the promotion. All the other divisions could be tournament based like Bellator with the winner of the tournament earning his UFC spot.

    It wouldn’t have to be all unknown fighters in the Challenger Series. They could send a guy on a losing streak like Dan Hardy down and fight his way through the Welterweight tournament and get back into the UFC.

  11. BrainSmasher on September 24th, 2011 1:46 PM

    I dont really believe in the over saturation theory. The buys the Brand gets from people just wanting fights does have a saturation point. I give you that. But in the process of saturating the market you build fans of individuals. The UFc isnt over saturating the market with GSP, Brock, Silva, Jones, Rampage, etc. There will always be a reason for fans to buy the PPVs even if MMA was on 24/7 on every channel. There is boxing on ESPN every week. It is on Fox sports almost every days. Yet these events doesnt make the fans want to see Pacman or FMJ any less.

    As people watch the free events they will be fans of the fighters showcased. That is what will make guys like Rory McDonald draws of tomorrow. Just as it has made Jones a name today.

    If you really look at the UFC year to year PPVs buys and reason behidn them you see there is no decline. Some years have more over seas events. Some have more participation from the big draws that mislead everyone. The UFC numbers are as good as ever. But you cant compare a year with 3 Brock and 2 GSp fights with a year with 1 fight from each. The good match ups sell as well as they always have. Of course a Rampage vs Jardine fight will not sell as well as Rampage vs Evans. It has nothing to with saturation. Some times guys win and the fights that have to be made are not block busters. Not every GSP fight is him vs Hughes. Sometimes he has to face a Hardy. If you look at the block buster fights the fans are still there. You look at the minimum the fans are still there.

  12. Jose Mendoza on September 25th, 2011 10:16 PM


    That’s exactly the point. If Lesnar is done after his next fight and Silva and GSP only last for another 1-2 years (retirement or start losing), that would heavily impact UFC’s PPV business. You are correct about building stars such as McDonald, but that is banking that FX, Fuel TV, and FOX can create draws, which we will find out soon. That’s why the UFC made this deal and what they are banking on.

  13. Diego on September 26th, 2011 11:58 AM

    I do believe in over-saturation. I’m a hard-core fan, but I can only watch so many PPVs in a month, regardless of the match-ups. I’ve already started cutting back on fights I’m not that interested in, I started doing that last year. Through 2009 I watched absolutely everything I could get my hands on and missed fights only if I was traveling.

    I think we may already be seeing a plateau in the US. The boys at Zuffa have more data on this than any of us, and they are pushing hard internationally – often at the expense of PPV revenues in North America. That should tell you something.

    Yes, breakout fighters will always command bigger PPV buys, but in general, people only have so much disposable income and time to spend on MMA.

  14. Mike on September 26th, 2011 7:46 PM

    i definitely think that people are being more selective, i know i am. I don’t think that they are going to plateau soon though, fox will bring in new customers, and the spike deal is up at the end of 2012. Once that happens, fox and fx and fuel and whatever the hell else army of websites and media that comes with that will start putting content out there and people will start watching. Watching fighting is one of those things that just simply appeals to people, and once they know where to find it easier they will start watching. Everyone that watches MMA knows that converting new fans is no problem, just invite them to your house for a big ppv, get them scream-at-the-tv wasted, and voila, a new fan is born.

  15. reggie on October 4th, 2011 9:27 AM

    I am not an expert on marketing and stuff but I like th ufc challenger series on SHO. And the tournament based ideas to earn a spot in ufc would make each PPV much more competitive rather than sume nobody go 5-0 then get invited to ufc. Or some guy goes 10-0 from fighting a bunch of ducks and getting on to the big stage off hype.(not talking about jones.)

  16. Jose Mendoza on October 4th, 2011 9:47 AM


    That scenario has always been possible with the UFC – they could have done it with WEC and now Strikeforce – but there is a real issue with running a league where you admit upfront that these guys are not the best fighters in the world. Not only that, but TUF sort of suites their needs while giving those fighters exposure all at once.

    It is something that I have repeatedly heard clamored from MMA fans though.

  17. Ted on November 12th, 2011 9:06 PM

    I think this is all fantastic fodder for conversation and I always wish non fans could read some of the postings in MMA blogs,’cause they would be so surprised @ the level of intelligent conversation that goes on in these.Having said that I wouldn’t worry about a lack of new stars coming up because the boom in popularity,we all know,brought a boom in people want to learn.Hell,5 or 6 yrs ago who wanted to picture a UFC w/out Couture,Liddell,or Ortiz?Yet our sport has survived & thrived.The sport now attracts a much higher level of athlete.Men (and Women) who would haved scoffed @ becoming a “CAGE Fighter” before are now eager to learn it.Look at Meathead Mitrione – look @ how much he has developed from the 1st episodes of TUF.If it wasn’t for MMA he’d probably be selling cars like most former NFL players.I promise you my friends – The Future’s So Bright Indeed.Cheer up everybody and wear them Shades.

  18. Ron on December 3rd, 2012 11:47 PM

    good. I we need new material. I dont make enough to pay to see the fights.

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