Dana White has made it very clear in the past that he is not depending on a network television deal to further the promotion's popularity. On network television, we've seen EliteXC, the International Fight League and Strikeforce. However, the world's most popular mixed martial arts promotion has yet to fill a network TV timeslot.
According to UFC President White, it's not a matter of not being able to get a network interested; it's finding a deal that works. "I could have had a network deal a long time ago," said White at the UFC 91 post-fight presser. "I've been saying that forever. Network deals are what is helping put these other companies out of business. Just because you get a network deal, doesn't mean it's a good deal. When we get a good network deal, then we'll be on network television."
Network television has certainly helped get the aforementioned promotions ratings, but nevertheless, Strikeforce is the only one still around out of those three and its business model is much different than the IFL's and EliteXC.
Another tough part of making a network TV deal happen is the severely stressed economic conditions in the U.S. It's hard to find corporations willing to put up big money in these conditions, and that is a major reason on why negotiations haven't been fruitful with the UFC and any major networks.
"Not very close now with this market like this," White said when asked how close they were to closing in on a network TV deal. "The economy is bad. I don't know if anybody else in this room feels it as bad as some of the other people in this country feel it, but the economy is really bad right now. There's no money out there. Sponsors aren't spending as much money as they used to. Some sponsors are going out of business. It's really scary times right now."
As bad as the current economic state is right now, the UFC still had an excellent turnout Saturday night for UFC 91, taking in $4.8 million at the gate and pay-per-view numbers that are likely to surpass the one million mark. White feels very fortunate about his company's position.
"I just can't tell you how happy I am that we are where we are," he said. "All of our guys, everybody still makes good money. The fans show up and support this thing. We're all very blessed to be where we are."
Even with the economic turmoil, White still feels that a network television deal will come in due time. He's just not rushing to make it happen immediately.
"The network deal will come when it comes. I'm not chasing it. I'm out there working and talking to these guys all the time. When the right deal comes, we'll take it."