After the major improvements with ESPN’s UFC 102 broadcast, I can reveal even better news for fans. British fighters will be seen more and more on ESPN broadcasts here, regardless of whether they are fighting in the USA, Australia, or Asia, as the world’s leading mixed martial arts organisation widens its net.
ESPN is to regionalise UFC events in the future, by showing British fighters who may be in preliminary bouts on UFC events taking place elsewhere. This is a major step forward. Eight of the ten fights were shown on Sunday morning, from UFC 102, mainly because of several early knockout finishes.
Clearly, the plan ESPN and the UFC have come up with is designed to cater for UK fans of the sport, and developing British fighters within the UFC. It is also a sign that ESPN are looking to put roots in for a long-term future with the sport.
A spokesperson for ESPN told Telegraph sport, in answer to whether ESPN would air UK fighters involved in preliminary bouts: “ESPN receive the programming direct from UFC, and in these instances UFC do not provide programming which features these bouts, however in the future UFC and ESPN will be working to ensure that where possible ESPN will be able to show British fighters who are in the prelim bouts. As soon as an agreement is met ESPN will make an announcement.”
I can reveal that at UFC 103 on September 19, where the exciting striker Paul Daley, a welterweight from Nottingham, and training partner of Dan Hardy, makes his UFC debut against American Brian Foster in Dallas, UK fans will see every moment as the fight will be aired on ESPN’s UK broadcast.
Read here for a Q&A I did with Daley when his UFC contract was announced.
Mixed martial artist Daley, in Holland where he is putting in the final touches on his training camp ahead of UFC 103, in the few days he calls “hell week, hard sparring, final conditioning” told Telegraph Sport that he is delighted with the new move in ESPN’s broadcasting.
He said: “It hadn’t really sunk in a lot at the time, because when I first found out about the four-fight UFC contract, I was buzzing. When I look at tv deals and fight sports at the moment, Carl Froch, from my home town, has a world super-middlweight boxing title and no tv deal. To have this means so much to me.”
“To know that my UFC debut will be broadcast in the UK really motivates me. It makes me feel that the UFC and ESPN are getting behind me, and the sport as a whole.”
Daley added: “It is a ‘wow’ moment for me. I’ve heard that ESPN are going to make a special broadcast of my debut. I’ve worked so hard to get to this point, I’m going to enjoy the fact that my UFC debut will be hyped. Brilliant.”
Daley heads to Dallas, Texas for UFC 103: Franklin v Belfort, next week.