Channel 5 has partnered with the Ultimate Fighting Championship to broadcast live coverage of the forthcoming show at London’s O2 Arena.
The deal heralds the first time a UFC event will be broadcast live to a free-to-air television audience in the UK.
The world’s fastest-growing mixed martial arts organisation stages its inaugural EMEA Fight Night in London on Saturday, March 8.
Channel 5’s UFC Fight Night London broadcast will begin at 9.00pm with live coverage of the main event of the evening – Alexander Gustafsson v Jimi Manuwa – followed by highlights of the rest of the card until 11.00pm.
The popularity of the UFC is soaring throughout Europe with the event at the O2 Arena selling out in a matter of hours.
Last year three events were held throughout Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA), with that number doubling to six in 2014, starting with London and then Abu Dhabi on April 11.
UFC programming is broadcast in over 145 countries, to nearly 800 million TV households worldwide, in 28 different languages.
In the UK, BT Sport holds the live rights to all of UFC’s global events and will also broadcast live coverage of Fight Night London, including all the main events on the supporting bill.
Channel 5 has previously shown recorded coverage of UFC events on various occasions during the past four years, but the broadcaster will step up its output by showing its first live UFC event.
The main event at the O2 Arena sees Alexander Gustafsson of Sweden take on Nigerian-born Briton Jimi Manuwa.
At six feet and 205 pounds, 33-year-old wrestler Jimi ‘Poster Boy’ Manuwa is unranked within his division.
He has only been in the UFC for 14 months, and has only three fights and wins to his credit in the promotion.
For him, this match is a terrific opportunity to take a massive leap forward in the light-heavyweight division.
He faces a formidable opponent, however, at 6’5″, Alexander ‘The Mauler’ Gustafsson is not only taller; he is also highly mobile, skilled and tough.
As Manuwa relies heavily on his stand-up game and knockout power tow in his matches, he might be in some trouble with the Swede, who has never been KOed.
Can the local lad beat the odds and score a win against the Swedish number one?
Also keeping the sell-out crowd on the edge of their seats will be three major bouts featuring the cream of the cream of the mixed martial arts world, including a clash between young gun Michael ‘The Menace’ Johnson and Melvin ‘The Young Assassin’ Guillard in the lightweight division.
Johnson, at the tender age of 27, already has 17 years of fighting under his belt, while his fearsome opponent holds the current title in the lightweight division for KO victories.
Another local boy, Brad ‘One Punch’ Pickett makes what is set to be a promising flyweight debut against opponent Neil Seery, an Irishman new to the UFC scene.
Pickett is an engaging and energetic former cage fighter with plenty of style, and his entrance to the sounds of Chas and Dave are just one aspect of what makes him loved by his fans.
Mark Pougatch will present Channel 5’s coverage on the night from the O2, with commentary from former cage warrior John Gooden and UFC man Dan Hardy.
Garry Cook, Executive Vice President and Managing Director of UFC EMEA, said: “This gives the entire British public the opportunity to watch UFC programming live on free to air TV and we are very excited to be working with Channel 5 to provide this experience.
“The UFC are incredibly proud of the EMEA Fight Nights that will we will be hosting throughout 2014, showcasing some of our incredible talent at Saturday primetime, across the regions to millions of existing and new fans.”
Channel 5’s factual commissioning editor Simon Raikes said: “UFC is the best of mixed martial arts, ideal to complement our existing fighting stable.
“We’re genuinely excited to welcome such a riveting sport to Channel 5.”
In addition to UFC, Channel 5’s sporting portflio also includes selected boxing events from the Hennessy Sports stable, as well as summer England cricket highlights.
For more information about UFC, its events and programming, plus further details about Fight Night London, visit the official UFC UK website.
Saturday 8th March
UFC Fight Night London
LIVE: 9.00pm-11.00pm Channel 5 / 7.30pm-10.30pm BT Sport 1