One truism in major professional sports that trumps all others is that television rules.
The Ultimate Fighting Championship is holding its UFC 169 pay-per-view Saturday night at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. because national broadcast partner Fox requested the MMA monolith’s presence in the metropolitan area to augment the network’s coverage of Super Bowl XLVIII, UFC president Dana White said Thursday at The Theatre at Madison Square Garden.
“Fox wanted us to be here with them,” said White, who noted he and the fighters participated in interviews on radio row, the collection of Super Bowl media outlets. “We had some reservations at first, whether we should do it or not, [but] it’s been awesome. The [card] is a sellout. The media here has been amazing. Fox really did a great job integrating us with the game. It’s been awesome.”
While White raved about UFC sharing the Super Bowl hullabaloo with Fox and the NFL, do not expect this to become a tradition. UFC has an exclusive television deal with Fox, and NBC has broadcast rights for Super Bowl XLIX. CBS will carry the Super Bowl in 2016, 2019 and 2022. Fox has broadcast rights for the Super Bowl again in 2017 and 2020.
So it seems likely UFC will hold their annual night-before-the-Super Bowl pay-per-view in Las Vegas next year.
“Fox won’t have the Super Bowl next year,” White said. “Another network [will], as far as I know. I think they switch every year. They have to share [the Super Bowl] and [Fox] wanted us to be a part of it. It goes right to what I say all the time about what kind of partners these guys are. They wanted us to be a part of this and we appreciate it.”
To show their appreciation, UFC created a 12-fight card that will be headlined by two title fights. The semi-main event pits featherweight champion Jose Aldo (23-1) against Ricardo Lamas (13-2), and the main event has bantamweight champion Renan Barao (33-1, one no contest) defending his title against Urijah Faber (30-6).
White believes the card will be a success despite the paucity of high-profile names.
“We’re headlining with two Brazilians in New Jersey and the [Prudential Center] is sold out,” White said. “Anybody who knows the sports knows what great fights these are. These are great fights. I don’t ever worry about that. We roll in, we do our thing. Do I think we’re going to do a million buys [on pay-per-view] this weekend? No, but we’re going to do well.
“Anybody who’s asking me for tickets this week, you can’t get tickets. Frankie Edgar called [Wednesday and said], ‘I need six tickets and [Renzo Gracie] needs two,’ and [I said], ‘It’s over, dude. Done. The tickets are sold out.’ I don’t have one ticket. It’s crazy. We have no tickets, whatsoever. [Rapper and actor] Ice-T called [yesterday and said], ‘I’ll buy four [tickets].’ I don’t have four. I can’t sell you four. I can’t give you four or sell you four.”
Follow mixed martial arts writer Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman.