Monday, March 12, 2007

UFC 70 to air on Spike TV

By Mike Chiappetta

Just two weeks ago, The Associated Press, a news organization that has sparsely reported on the explosive growth of the UFC over the years, released the blockbuster news that UFC surpassed World Wrestling Entertainment and equaled boxing's premier broadcaster HBO when it came to pay-per-view dollars.

And while the recent feel-good story of Randy Couture's return to the top will likely only help UFC's marketing and bottom-line, they won't capitalize on the momentum just yet. has confirmed through a source close to the organization that UFC 70 will be broadcast on SpikeTV. The event will be shown on tape-delay on April 21 beginning at 9 pm ET. An official statement should come Tuesday.

UFC 70, which will be held at the Manchester Evening News Arena in England, features a main event of Croatian superstar Mirko Cro Cop vs. Gabriel Gonzaga. Dana White recently confirmed that the winner of the match would face newly crowned UFC heavyweight champion Randy Couture for the title, with that match likely taking place towards the end of the summer. Cro Cop is a southpaw kickboxing specialist who has fought many of the best in the world while with Japan's PRIDE organization. In his UFC debut in February, he defeated Eddie Sanchez via TKO in the first round. Gonzaga is a jiu-jitsu specialist with five straight wins under his belt.

Ultimate Fighter 4 winner Michael Bisping is also featured and should be a huge crowd favorite in his native country. But perhaps the night's most intriguing encounter will be a light-heavyweight tilt between fan-favorite Forrest Griffin and undefeated Lyoto Machida. Griffin was thought to be nearing a title-shot in the near-future against 205-pound champion Chuck Liddell, but those plans were derailed after he suffered a first-round TKO at the hands of Keith Jardine. Another loss would drop Griffin's stock as a potential titleholder, though he'll always have a certain measure of fame from his TUF days and aggressive style. Machida is a dangerous fighter who's defeated several well-known UFC veterans including Stephan Bonnar, Rich Franklin and B.J. Penn.

The UFC had originally hoped that their long talked-about deal with HBO would be completed in time to broadcast UFC 70 on the premium-cable channel, but the negotiations hit a snag, and while they are still ongoing, an agreement wasn’t expected in time to put the production together. Because UFC and Spike have such a strong working relationship, it became a natural pairing for the event.

This won't be the first time UFC puts a major event on Spike. On Oct. 10, 2006, an event that featured the third matchup between Tito Ortiz and Ken Shamrock was broadcast, drawing nearly 6 million during the fight between UFC veterans. That helped set up December's huge buyrate when Ortiz fought Chuck Liddell.

With a pay-per-view quality card at UFC 70, the organization will likely set a new record for fans watching a mixed martial arts event.


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