Octagon mates: Spike, UFC

5:00 AM PST 10/26/2007 by Kimberly Nordyke, AP

Cable deal extended through 2011

Spike TV and the Ultimate Fighting Championship have inked a new three-year extension of their partnership, keeping the mixed martial arts brand on the cable network through 2011.

The exclusive deal, which maintains Spike as the basic cable home of the UFC, includes Seasons 9-12 of the reality series "The Ultimate Fighter"; 12 live fight cards; 39 hourlong episodes of "UFC Unleashed"; and two seasons of a new weekly live fight series.

The agreement calls for Spike to air four of the 12 live fight cards -- "UFC Fight Nights," hosted by Joe Rogan and Mike Goldberg -- per year, though Spike president Kevin Kay said the network could end up airing more on an annual basis.

As for "Unleashed," hosted by Goldberg, 13 episodes will run annually from 2009-11. The companies said the program will feature "the greatest fights in the history of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, many of them never seen on basic cable."

Kay noted the popularity of Spike's UFC programming, saying that "Fighter" is the network's most-watched original program.

Overall, "it does tremendous for us; that's why it was so important to get this relationship extended," he said. "It's developed a great fan base for us, and it's a partnership we wouldn't want to be without."

Meanwhile, details of the new weekly live fight series will be announced later. UFC president Dana White said that's because the concept is being worked out.

"We're not just sitting back on the shows we have," White said. "We're always creating new programming, and the great thing about Spike is that they are open-minded to it. It's a match made in heaven."

Spike began airing UFC programming in early 2005. Last month alone, it aired 52 hours of UFC content.

In 2007, Spike's seven live UFC fights averaged 869,000 males in the 18-34 demo, while the sixth season of "Fighter" averages more than 1.5 million viewers a week in its 10 p.m. Wednesday slot.

Season 7 of "Fighter" enters production in January. Craig Piligian of Pilgrim Films and Television, Frank Fertitta III, Lorenzo Fertitta, White and Kay are the show's executive producers.

The new UFC deal was brokered by Endeavor.
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