Live shows likely next round for NBC, Strikeforce
The programming suits at NBC have a decision to make.
EliteXC's Saturday Night Fights debut on CBS May 31 proved that live mixed martial arts is more than viable on network television. Despite the fact that most MMA fans jeered the show, ripping into everything from the production to the officiating, SNF was the most-watched MMA event in U.S. television history. The broadcast drew a peak audience of more than 6.5 million viewers – and 4.85 million viewers in total – to top the 5.9 million who tuned into the Quinton Jackson-Dan Henderson match at UFC 75.
Those are game-changing numbers that TV executives simply can't ignore, especially when it comes to delivering the male, 18-to-34 audience that advertisers crave. That demographic comprised a sizeable portion of the viewers who tuned into SNF.
NBC already carries MMA, albeit in a time slot far removed from the bright lights of primetime. Strikeforce launched its weekly 30-minute taped series on the Peacock Network April 12. The promotion, which those familiar with the deal say purchased the airtime from the network, hoped the series would be the catalyst that leads to live shows on NBC.
"Periodically, we're in talks (with NBC)," said Strikeforce's Mike Afromowitz. "Of course, we want to be live on the network. That's always been part of our long-term objective. People want to see live events. The show's been a good way to introduce the brand and the product to people, but moving forward, we want to be live. That's the next step."
Not only do the ratings generated on CBS suggest that the next step might be imminent for NBC, programming brass at the network need to look no further than their own ratings to see that MMA draws a crowd. Viewership of "Strikeforce on NBC," which follows "Poker After Dark" every Saturday night/early Sunday morning, has increased nearly 200 percent from its first show to one of its recent airings.
The fifth episode, during the week of May 5, drew an audience of 949,000 viewers. That topped the average ratings for other late-night fare, including "Jimmy Kimmel Live" and "The Late, Late Show with Craig Ferguson."
"The show has exceeded our expectations," said Afromowitz, who oversees selection of fights featured in the production. "We're only several weeks into the series. We got the production together very quickly with minimal promotion. We didn't have a big, big campaign to promote it, but word spread from the first week we were on."
It seems only a matter of time before NBC makes a more significant commitment to MMA programming.
The Making of a Superstar in Korea
Dong Hyun Kim's impressive May 24 UFC debut was not televised in North America, but in South Korea it was shown live.
And then it was shown again.
And then it was shown again: three times total, with commentary, prior to the resumption of live coverage.
Even before the translator could mangle Kim's responses to Joe Rogan in the postfight interview, YTN, the Korean cable news network, had added "Kim Dong Hyun wins by TKO in first UFC contest" to the news ticker at the bottom of the screen, amid updates on American beef imports and the earthquake in China. KTX trains also added Kim's picture to the queue of rural photographs cycling on the aisle monitors.
Virtually unknown to all but hardcore fight fans, suddenly it seemed as if Kim was on every screen in Korea.
MMA Submission: An Interview With Dana White
Get a load of Dana White's schedule this week. The UFC president spent two days in New York on business, then flew right to London for this weekend's pay per view. Then he's flying back to New York for more meetings. "It's a little crazy right now," he says with a laugh. "But in a good way. This sport is blowing up."
The Mag caught up with him for a wide-ranging question and answer session about everything from this weekend's pay-per-view to Kimbo Slice. He couldn't answer some questions about pending deals (including an announcement he's planning for next week, an announcement he says will rock the MMA world). Other questions, such as his thoughts on Slice, he had plenty to say.
10 Fights that Changed the Course of Careers
Take his career as a whole and Matt Hughes -- who competes Saturday for the first time since a second devastating loss to Georges St. Pierre -- is unquestionably the most accomplished 170-pound athlete to ever don a pair of open-fingered Ouano gloves.
With a list of casualties including B.J. Penn, Sean Sherk, and even St. Pierre himself, Hughes has run the gauntlet in one of the deepest talent pools in the sport. Yet the defining image fans will carry into his bout against Thiago Alves in London's O2 arena is his arm being torqued at unnatural angles at the hands of St. Pierre last December.
That sobering defeat could turn out to be the fulcrum on which Hughes' career now swings. Snapped from his perpetual dominance of the division, he may be more cognizant of his physical limitations and opponents may be less fearful of his abilities.
In properly melodramatic form: the St. Pierre loss could be the beginning of the end.
It wouldn't be the first time that five or 10 minutes managed to stall career momentum for good. Other athletes have had experiences that reduced them to shells of their former selves. Inversely, some fights have taken fighters to new levels of popularity and performance.
The psychological and physical reverberations of a good beat down -- taken or given -- can last the duration of a fighter's ring life.
Some examples, in ascending order of impact:
Donald Trump Joins the MMA Fray
According to a press release from Affliction, Donald Trump will be partnering with the clothing company turned MMA promoter in a capacity to be revealed at a press conference tomorrow. The full press releases comes courtesy of Five Ounces of Pain:
Report: Donald Trump to Announce Affliction's Signing of Andrei Arlovski
MMARated.com has learned that at tomorrow's Affliction press conference in Manhattan, Donald Trump will be announcing that former UFC heavyweight champion, Andrei Arlovski, has officially signed with the upstart promotion. The Executive Vice President of The Trump Organization and the Special Counsel to Donald J. Trump, Michael D. Cohen, confirmed the news with MMARated.com.
Trump will also announce that he has become an equity partner in the Affliction promotion. When asked what percentage of the organization he now owns, Mr. Cohen would only say "a significant amount."
Finally, when asked if Trump's relationship with Tito Ortiz would help bring the former UFC light heavyweight champion to Affliction, Cohen said:
"Everything that Donald Trump does is the biggest and the best and the "Afflcition: Banned" show will be just that.
Due to the status of the Trump mark, and Donald Trump as a mogul business man, Mr. Trump has received dozens of phone calls from fighters who are interested in joining the Affliction family."
CBS Executive Responds To Critics Of MMA Debut
In life and network television, there are tradeoffs.
Kelly Kahl, Senior Executive Vice President for CBS Primetime television, found out you can’t please everybody, especially when perfection is the standard.
On the mixed martial arts message forums mere hours after the conclusion of CBS’s grand MMA experiment, “CBS-EliteXC Saturday Night Fights,” Kahl realized that few fans were ready to give his product a ticker tape parade. Much of the feedback was downright nasty.
“I thought some of it was fair,” he said. “I think in some cases you have people out there who… basically, if it’s not UFC it’s not credible.
“We have a little work to do with the hardcore fans and that’s something we’ll certainly address next time. But I think in terms of getting new people in I think we did a fantastic job.”
Best around: MMAmania.com exclusive sit down with WEC champion Miguel Torres
On one night in February, Miguel Torres went from being a relatively unknown fighter from East Chicago (Ind.), to being the WEC bantamweight champion and being considered one of the top pound for pound fighters in the world.
His first real introduction to most casual fans was at WEC 32, when Torres defeated then-champion Chase Beebe via submission (guillotine choke) to win the 135-pound title. However, the scrappy Mexican-American has been beating people up — sometimes grown men who outweigh him by more than 25 pounds — for years in sanctioned and unsanctioned bouts for close to a decade .
His nearly perfect professional record (46-1), which includes just about every submission and finishing result in the book, is nothing compared to his unbelievable “amateur” accomplishments.
That number might seem different to you because Sherdog’s Fight Finder has Torres listed as 33-1. Torres acknowledges that they were small time fights that were unsanctioned
“They were fights that helped build my career,” Torres told MMAMania.com. “They were the ones that got me into the sport. They weren’t weight classed, they were open rules.”
Those early fights earned him a cult-like following on the underground Midwest MMA scene, as well as the respect of his peers such as UFC veteran and The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) star, Stephan Bonnar.
“When we were coming up, Miguel had the entire Chicago scene by the balls,” said Bonnar. “He could sell more tickets than anyone. He turned events into such a show, complete with Mariachi bands and everything.”
MMA Myths Debunked Again
In the mid-’90s, politicians looking to score easy points succeeded in pressuring cable television executives to boot the fledgling sport off cable television. Instead of killing off MMA, it simply went underground
When MMA returned to cable in 2001, it was portrayed as a sign of the decline of American civilization. Somehow, the republic survived.
When the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s popularity exploded in 2005, it was dismissed as a fad that would soon go away. Three years later, the company is on the hottest sustained pay-per-view business streak in its history.