Once upon a time, the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) had a healthy relationship with Viacom-owned Spike TV.
Eventually, as their six-year deal winded down, there was trouble in paradise (it couldn’t be any worse than former Viacom parent owner CBS’ foray into mixed martial arts – remember the old EliteXC? “CBS Saturday Night Fights,” anyone?) and before you know it, UFC is currently in the midst of a new deal with FOX, with UFC programming airing on the FX and FUEL cable networks as well as the occasional UFC marquee event on the FOX broadcast network.
You can say UFC President Dana White wasn’t necessarily pleased when Spike began counter-programming UFC events on FOX networks with shows from the UFC library, which Spike owns the rights to until this year.
Last week, White coined a new nickname for his former business partner: “Spuke TV.”
“These guys don’t have a [expletive] program on that [network] to save their life,” White commented after the 152th edition of UFC’s fighting series. “It’s the worst channel in the history of the world. Nothing they do on that channel works.”
Speaking at a press conference on Friday in Minneapolis, site of “UFC on FX 5”, as he assured that UFC’s relationship with FOX “couldn’t be better” despite syncopated ratings for recent UFC programs on FUEL TV, White seized another opportunity to continue his keylock on Spike.
“They’re not geniuses that went out and got the UFC,” White contended, recalling how UFC brokered time on Spike to air the first season of “The Ultimate Fighter.” He was particularly incensed about how Spike took credit for UFC’s initial visibility as ratings for “Fighter” soared, when in reality, “they stepped in a big, steaming pile of [expletive], looked on the bottom of their shoe and said, ‘Oh yeah, this is great… We created the Ultimate Fighting Championship.’ No, you didn’t, Spuke TV.
“We were a [expletive] time buy. That’s how much they believed in us… Now they all walk around like they’re [expletive] geniuses and they built the UFC. We were a [expletive] time buy.”
White then proceeded to cough up some cash to any of the small contingent of reporters that could come up with an example of “must-see TV” on Spike. “I’ll give you $100 right now if one of you can come up with the smash hit… that [expletive] massive, killer, amazing [expletive] hit from Spuke TV. Hundred bucks.”
And like a Barrett-Jackson automobile auction on FUEL’s sister network SPEED, White’s initial $100 offer had been expedited to as much as $2,000, all white citing the names of breakthrough cable series on FX like “The Shield” and “Sons Of Anarchy,” as well as a nod to AMC’s “Breaking Bad.”
Sadly, this was not part of the official UFC on FX 5 post-fight presser – otherwise, this would have been media gold.
So while UFC enjoys an alliance with FOX and its cable networks, Spike has moved on with sports entertainment from “TNA Impact Wrestling” as well as original series like “Bar Rescue” and new ones like “Urban Tarzan.”
“You guys suck at what you do,” White upheld. “You’re the worst [expletive] channel. Not one hit, ever. How can you [expletive] up so bad, that you don’t have one hit?”
But as SPEED proceeds to evolve into what will be FOX’s new general sports network Fox Sports One, could that add some “fuel” to UFC’s FOX deal?