Spike TV will team with combat-sports outfit Ultimate Fighting Championship to create a one-hour, 13-part reality series set to bow in January 2005 that will develop future grapplers.
The Ultimate Fighter will feature 16 athletes who will live and train together. Its four survivors will get UFC contracts, said Spike TV senior vice president of sports and specials Jim Burns.
Producer Craig Piligian (Survivor, American Chopper), will serve as co-executive producer, along with Robert Riesenberg, (The Restaurant).
Burns said the Zuffa LLC-owned UFC — a mixed martial-arts association in which athletes compete by combining jujitsu, judo, karate, boxing, kickboxing and wrestling fighting techniques — is growing in popularity, and is a better match for Spike’s efforts to appeal to younger male viewers than other fighting sports, like boxing.
The UFC currently distributes six pay-per-view events a year, but does not have a basic-cable outlet.
“The UFC appeals to a younger guy, whereas boxing is having serious trouble because they don’t have any stars,” Burns said. “The UFC exudes stardom and it’s a younger, quicker legitimate sport.”
UFC president Dana White said the series would provide a major marketing boost for the organization. If successful, he added, the Spike series could lead to other UFC programming opportunities with the male-targeted network, including possibly a weekly series similar to World Wrestling Entertainment’s Raw.
Burns said the network has also fielded pitches for similar reality shows representing marquee sports like baseball and basketball, but has not signed any development deals.
He also wouldn’t rule out a reality show based on the WWE — Spike already distributres Raw, long one of cable;’s highest rated shows.
Sister network MTV: Music Television last year distributed a WWE reality series dubbed Tough Enough.
“We’re still thinking about that particular show. I don’t think one negates the other,” Burns said.