Network executives knew the first weekend with multiple live events would draw good numbers but for the most part they exceeded expectations. The Bundesliga’s return drew record numbers on Fox Sports 1, Saturday night’s UFC card on ESPN was one of the top shows on cable television and Sunday’s NASCAR race on Fox was the most-viewed non-Daytona race in three years.
Ultimate Fighting Championship seemed for years to be a curio, a niche sport for those interested in seeing combatants pummel one another in an octagonal cage. The league, which promotes mixed martial arts, is expected to announce as soon as Monday that it has sold itself to a group led by the talent giant WME-IMG for about $4 billion, according to people with direct knowledge of the matter.
Ratings for the brutal mixed martial arts league have steadily risen and so has its appeal to sponsors. It still attracts only certain advertisers, however, who are after men 18-34.
In what would represent a major push into the mainstream for the UFC, Fox has agreed to a deal that will see the network air as many as four MMA events per year, according to several sources. As part of the deal, most of the weekly programming that UFC has on Versus and Spike TV will move to FX starting in January.