If you’re like me and live with your significant other, you’d agree that one of the keys to continued happiness is the ability to determine an appropriate split between watching what you want to watch on television and watching what your partner wants to watch. This is especially true if you only have a single cable hookup in your apartment, as is the case where I live.

Before I moved in with my soon-to-be-wife, I could watch as much MMA and other violent programming as I wanted, whenever I wanted, without having to compromise with anybody. That was cool. Today, though, I have to balance blood and/or guts with the occasional episode of Bravo’s Top Chef or TLC’s Four Weddings. That’s fine too, because my fiancée is awesome and I’ve learned that Top Chef is quite an entertaining program and Four Weddings is actually pretty helpful if, like me, you’re putting together a wedding.

Once or twice each month, though, my lady knows that it’s fight night, and I’m going to be watching anywhere between two and seven hours of MMA broadcasting. Usually I’ll catch the main cards of the UFC’s events, and once in a while I’ll throw in a few of the preliminary fights as well, because often times those are some of the best contests on the card. More often than not, she’ll actually sit and watch the fights with me, which is great! I wouldn’t call her a diehard MMA fan, but she definitely knows more about the sport than most, if only through osmosis. That being said, however, I usually try not to dominate the television with MMA for an entire evening, unless the card is particularly stacked.

For these reasons, I’ve actually grown to enjoy the UFC’s Fox cards the most. They start at 7 p.m. central time, pack in four fights that are usually pretty awesome, and are over right around 9, leaving me more than enough time to hit the town. The UFC’s pay-per-view events don’t even begin until 9 central time, which is fine, but means a later night in front of the TV.

The promotion seems to be trending in that earlier direction for its upcoming Fox Sports 1 debut on Aug. 17, with the six-fight main card slated to begin at 7 p.m. central time. Unlike the UFC’s previous pay-per-view or Fox events, however, there will also be four preliminary fights that air on the same channel beginning at 5 p.m. central time. That’s 10 fights in five hours, all on one network.

This marks a departure from the UFC’s previous broadcasting strategies. Initially, you’ll recall, the promotion only ever broadcast the main-card portion of its events. Beginning in 2009, however, the UFC began to air a small number of preliminary fights on Spike as teaser content meant to entice viewers who had not yet chosen to purchase the associated pay-per-view portion to spend their money. Flash forward to 2013, and the UFC now makes all fights on nearly every card available to watch between its online, television-network or pay-per-view offerings.

What makes the first UFC on Fox Sports 1 event different, though, is that the vast majority of that event’s fights will broadcast in one five-hour block on the network, rather than being split up among three different providers. Yes, the UFC is airing three fights online prior to the Fox Sports 1 presentation, but it nevertheless marks the first instance where the UFC has taken up such a large block of airtime on a single network.

This revised schedule works well for this event for a couple of reasons. First, because Fox Sports 1 is a sports channel only, both the UFC and network executives can rest assured that a five-hour chunk of Saturday-evening scheduling isn’t going to needlessly bump any other more wide-reaching programming. With FX and especially with the main Fox network, the UFC must share time with non-sports programming, since those two networks broadcast a host of different content genres. On Fox Sports 1, the UFC will just need to compete with college football, motorsports and soccer, very few of which will likely broadcast events on Saturday nights, so it’s much easier to provide the promotion with such a large piece of the programming pie.

Second, it’s clear the UFC and Fox are both trying to make Fox Sports 1 a de facto “UFC Network,” with the promotion putting on an event on the network’s launch day and two more in its first month of broadcast. In addition, new episodes of The Ultimate Fighter will move from FX to Fox Sports 1 beginning this September with the highly anticipated Team Rousey vs. Team Tate edition, which for the first time in the show’s history will feature both male and female fighters. Expect the UFC’s offerings on Fox Sports 1 to be among the highest-rated programs on the network from the start and in perpetuity.

Looking at it from a holistic perspective, the UFC isn’t really doing a whole lot different when it comes to the level of content they’re making available to viewers. It’s become commonplace over the last few years for the UFC to broaden its broadcasts to include as many fights in a given event as practical. Up until this point, what’s been practical has been splitting up the cards into pieces and having up to three different carriers show different fights from the same event. With the launch of a new all-sports network (that doesn’t have any existing partnerships with the NFL, NBA, NHL or MLB), it’s now probably more practical to send folks to the same place for several hours, rather than to a few different places for smaller chunks of time.

Don’t, however, expect the UFC to adopt the longer programming blocks for its events on Fox anytime soon. Barring the launch of a Sunday-afternoon UFC series during the NFL’s offseason, Fox simply is not going to sacrifice five hours of programming time for what is still basically a niche attraction. That being said, who’s to say what will be possible (and financially viable) in a few years. In 2006 there were probably very few people who thought the UFC would ever wind up on a national network in prime time. Five years later, that’s exactly what happened. In 2018, the UFC’s position in the sporting universe will probably look quite a bit different that it does today and the promotion could very well have the sort of juice that would attract enough people to justify an afternoon-long MMA presentation on Fox.

By that time, I’ll be married and hopefully living in a place where I could retreat to a separate, sound-proof room for my UFC binges. That, or I’ll have to trade off a Saturday of UFC for a Sunday of Project Runway.

Photo: Fox Sports 1 Logo (Fox Sports)

About The Author

Eric Reinert
Staff Writer

Eric Reinert has been writing about mixed martial arts since 2010. Outside the world of caged combat, Eric has spent time as a news reporter, speechwriter, campaign strategist, tech support manager, landscaper and janitor. He lives in Madison, Wis.