BBC Three is making some big changes following its move to online only after agreeing a partnership with the UFC in a move that will help draw in its targeted millennial audience.
The new 'editorial and promotional partnership' with the UFC will give BBC Three preview and behind-the-scenes content for world’s leading mixed martial arts promotion.
The deal will include coverage of all the European, Middle East and Asian shows with the option of buying additional international shows.
It will exclude any live broadcasting of the events themselves as BT Sport holds the exclusive UK broadcast rights for all UFC events until its contract expires at the end of July.
The partnership will commence this week, ahead of the UFC London which will take place on Saturday 27 February at London’s O2 Arena. The event’s main card has fuelled global interest as fans of the sport anticipate the return of Brazilian great Anderson Silva who will take on the UK’s Michael Bisping.
The UFC's EMEA chief, James Elliot, told the Sun: “We are thrilled to be recognised as a valuable asset for BBC Three and the wider BBC Sport team.
“Audiences across the UK & Ireland are becoming more and more knowledgeable about the skill, athleticism and ethics of MMA fighters and the great events and content produced by the UFC, which is driving fans to seek content from media outlets.
“BBC Three is a perfect fit for UFC and we look forward to an exciting year working together to bring great content to their audiences.”
Damian Kavanagh, controller of BBC Three, said it was “right we cover one of the fastest growing and most talked about sports in the world, which has millions of fans in the UK.”
Kavanagh continued: "The deal is mutually beneficial and demonstrates how BBC Three can experiment with new types of content, from new partners, in new ways.”
He added: "Last year we made a documentary featuring MMA and offered live coverage of League of Legends from Wembley with both well received by younger audiences, so in the spirit of innovation, we welcomed the chance to work with the UFC."
The popularity of the UFC in the UK has grown exponentially in the last few years thanks to stars like Irish-born Conor McGregor who continues to draw huge audiences and so the BBC’s decision to initiate a presence in the sport, which is largely absent from UK broadcasting outside of BT Sport, is likely to attract the target audience.