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ESPN win UFC and more!


TK Veteran
ESPN today confirmed they have sealed the rights to screen UFC fight cards in the UK.

As SunSport exclusively revealed on July 11, the American TV network clinched the deal after weeks of top-level negotiations with the mixed martial arts promotion.

Next month's UFC 101 event — which sees BJ Penn defend his lightweight title against Kenny Florian — will be the first show screened on ESPN's new UK channel.

And SunSport can reveal the broadcaster has bagged first rights to season 10 of The Ultimate Fighter, which features YouTube favourite Kimbo Slice in the next series.

The news will come as a bitter blow to freeview channel Virgin 1, who had been in the running for the reality TV show after broadcasting TUF 9 earlier this year.

As well as fight cards and TUF, the channel will also screen episodes of 'Countdown' and 'Wired' as well as four 'Fight Night' cards every year.

In addition to gaining rights for the UFC, ESPN also announced it has secured multiyear UK and Ireland rights to air TOP 14 ORANGE (French Rugby Championship) and the Australian Football League (AFL).

The network has also agreed a deal to broadcast the FIBA European Basketball Championship ("EuroBasket") in September 2009, which features the Great Britain team after they qualified for the tournament for the first time since 1981, and a multiyear deal for the DTM — German Touring Car series.

ESPN Vice President, TV Channels Europe, Middle East and Africa said: "ESPN's aim is to serve UK and Ireland sports fans by bringing the very best of both domestic and international live sport to their living rooms.

"We are delighted to add UFC, TOP 14 ORANGE, the leading French Rugby Championship, the Australia Football League, EuroBasket and DTM to our growing portfolio of live sport.

"In addition to our Barclays Premier League and Clydesdale Bank Premier League coverage from this season we will continue to seek out and deliver the best sporting events from Europe and around the globe."

ESPN plans to make its new live sports coverage widely available across multiple Pay-TV platforms.

As part of this distribution strategy, ESPN has already reached agreements for its coverage to be retailed by Sky and Virgin Media.

Courtesy the sun.