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By RICHARD SANDOMIR
Published: August 18, 2011

Fox Sports is adding the Ultimate Fighting Championship, the dominant brand in mixed martial arts, to its collection of sports programming. The seven-year deal will include four fights a year on broadcast television in prime time and will pay the U.F.C. at least $100 million annually.

In addition to the fights on Fox, “The Ultimate Fighter” reality series will move from Spike to FX next year, and additional U.F.C. programming will be on Fuel and Fox Deportes.

David Hill, chairman of the Fox Sports Media Group, said that his interest in the U.F.C. went back 10 years to conversations he had with Lorenzo Fertitta, the chief executive of the fight organization, that led to carrying a live fight on the old Fox Sports Net series, “The Best Damn Sports Show Period.”

“The sport has gone from a niche to an international powerhouse,” Hill said. “I’ve never seen anything go from zero to hero in so short a time.”

The U.F.C. has proved itself to Fox with its pay-per-view success; its live shows; its use of social media; and its performance on Spike, although viewership for “The Ultimate Fighter” has fallen this year by about half since 2009. Hill said that he believed the series would thrive on FX.

Most important for Fox, Hill said, was that U.F.C. attracts young viewers, including men 18 to 34.

“They grow with the sport and when they have kids, they’ll watch it with their kids,” he said.

He said that he was further convinced of the importance of acquiring the U.F.C.’s rights by Jay Glazer, the Fox N.F.L. reporter who is also a mixed martial arts trainer with a clientele that includes N.F.L. players.

Fertitta said during a news conference that there was interest in U.F.C.’s rights from other networks.

One possibility, said an executive briefed on the negotiations, had Comcast creating a channel the U.F.C. would have bought into, but negotiations fell apart.

Dana White, the U.F.C.’s president, said that he was satisfied to have the long-term deal with Fox.

“There’ve been a lot of big milestones over the past 10 years, building this company and this sport,” he said. “I have to be totally honest when I say this is the biggest.”

The U.F.C. will benefit from being promoted on Fox’s sports programming, which includes the N.F.L., Major League Baseball and Nascar, and on its prime-time shows.

In addition to the four fights on Fox, FX will show live fights after each of the 26 episodes during two separate annual runs of “The Ultimate Fighter,” and six others throughout the year. Fuel will carry U.F.C. programming seven nights a week. The first Fox fight is scheduled for Nov. 12.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/19/sports/ufc-lands-a-seven-year-deal-with-fox-sports.html