According to UFC President Dana White on Saturday after UFC 130, the organization expects to wrap things up for a new deal within the next six months.
"We're in negotiations right now, so we're still talking," White said (transcribed by MMAWeekly.com). "Should be wrapped up in the next 6 months... We want to be with somebody we can grow with like we have with Spike. We've had a great relationship with Spike and done great things there, so hopefully we can figure things out."
"We have a great relationship with them, it's not like we don't. Negotiations a negotiation, doesn't matter who you're talking to. I have a lot of respect and a lot of good relationships over at Spike TV, and we've been with them for a long time, they built us, we built them. We'll see how they whole thing goes."
Spike has been a de facto "UFC Network" for years, with the network running marathons of UFC programming on a regular basis, from "UFC Unleashed" to "The Ultimate Fighter" to live events in full on UFC Fight Night cards and the hour long "Prelims Live" broadcasts.
The next logical step in the eyes of outsiders has always been a move to network television. However, the UFC's insistence on full control of their production has led to them not finding the right deal with any of the major networks, as well as HBO or Showtime in the past as well. But White says that's not a position they're willing to change.
"It's always been part of the deal," White said. "Our deal has always been we could do fights on network television, we've just never come to a deal with network television. We're not going to make dumb deals that don't make sense."
"We're going to have to get in a situation where we create a deal with one of these networks where we have control of the product. [Can you] imagine if I let somebody else take control? This is something they didn't give a s*** about and didn't believe in for the last 10 years and now they're going to control it and say how it's going to be run and how it's going to be aired? Ain't going to happen while I'm here."
White didn't reveal any specific networks they were talking to, instead saying they were talking to "everyone." A leading candidate may be NBC Sports with Comcast's purchase of NBC last year. Zuffa has already been featured on Comcast-owned Versus, which is expected to be re-branded into NBC Sports in the next year, and they could attempt to have UFC programming as a center-piece of their new push to be a major sports network.
Penick's Analysis: This is a crucial period for the UFC. Their next major TV deal is going to help determine the organization's trajectory for the next several years. The right deal could catapult them even further than they've come to this point, though a deal on a lesser network could stagnate some of the growth they've had on Spike TV. I'd love to see them get involved with a network, as getting UFC programming on a major, free-to-air station could be a huge thing for the sport. But at the same time I completely understand their desire to maintain control of their production. They know what they're doing with it and don't want to have people unfamiliar with what they do taking over. We've seen some of the negatives of network production with parts of the CBS broadcasts with EliteXC and Strikeforce, and the UFC wants to avoid that. I'm excited to see what the next step will be for the organization on television, but they will need to find the right deal for them as a business as well as for the advancement of their goals for the sport.
[Dana White art by Travis Beaven (c) MMATorch.com]