With the launch of the UFC Fight Pass this past week, UFC Fight Night: Gustafsson .vs. Manuwa was confirmed as an exclusive for the Fight Pass, at least in the US market. Like the Singapore card this week, these cards in international markets are designed for broadcast in those markets rather than worldwide, and are available online for those dedicated fans who wish to watch them.
However, PlaceToBeNation can exclusively reveal that the UFC Fight Night card in London on March 8th is currently not confirmed for broadcast on the UFC’s British television partner, BT Sport.
A BT spokesperson speaking exclusively to PTBN, said: “The original BT Sport deal is linked to the US broadcast rights, BT Sport will broadcast the events which are on either PPV or free in the US. Since we announced the original deal UFC continues to grow and new online events have been created, for which we do not have the rights.”
Despite this, The Telegraph’s Gareth A Davies reported at the time the deal was signed that it covered “all of UFC’s live and taped programming.”
Those events that are confirmed for broadcast include all numbered UFC pay per views, UFC on Fox: Henderson .vs. Thompson, all US Fight Night cards and UFC Fight Night: Machida .vs. Mousasi from Brazil.
The spokesperson stated that they “will not confirm” that London and other European cards will be broadcast, as “these are not currently included in our rights portfolio.” The Ultimate Fighter China Finale card, which will be headlined by British fighter John Hathaway, is also not currently part of BT’s schedule.
However, all is not lost – at the last minute, BT have announced that Tomorrow’s Singapore card will now be replayed on BT Sport tomorrow evening in primetime, meaning that it is possible broadcast arrangements for these cards could be worked out on top of the current rights deal.
If a deal is not worked out it could not only have consequences for fans, but there could be consequences for fighters too – Brad Pickett, who fights on the London card against Ian McCall, told PTBN that while he was hopeful a deal would be reached, should the event not be available on television it would likely have an impact on his income from sponsors.
The Singapore card was originally only available online for £6.99 in HD for the European market on UFC.tv, as the UFC Fight Pass has not launched in that region yet. Fans and writers reported seeing a tweet from the @UFC_UK account saying that the card would be available for free online, but the UFC deny sending any such tweet.
The Fight Pass is expected to launch in the UK in time for the Ultimate Fighter China Finale on March 1st according to MMATorch.com, though all that a UFC spokesperson could confirm is that it would not launch in the UK before this date.
This is the latest stumble in the UFC’s European expansion plans – after UFC EMEA VP Garry Cook touted plans for a European talent scout to the press in Manchester last October, it was announced by the UFC just a few weeks later that those plans had been scrapped.
The UFC did not respond to a request for comment by the time of publication.