Details Emerge in LFA-UFC Fight Pass Deal

By: Patrick Auger
Nov 8, 2019

Lost in all the fanfare surrounding UFC 244 was the announcement that the Legacy Fighting Alliance promotion had secured a deal with UFC Fight Pass and would be coming to the over-the-top streaming service starting on Nov. 15. The MMA organization had been in limbo ever since broadcast partner AXS-TV was purchased by Anthem Sports and Entertainment in September; Anthem subsequently terminated its new subsidiary’s arrangement with the regional promotion. The abrupt dissolution of the contract led Legacy Fighting Alliance officials to postpone LFA 78 and LFA 79, which had been scheduled to take place in early October. Those events are now scheduled to take place in mid-November with different headlining bouts and locations than originally booked.

While the initial announcement came with little in the way of particulars, new details have emerged regarding LFA’s new partnership with the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Speaking with the Luke Thomas Show on SiriusXM, LFA CEO Ed Soares revealed that the contract with the streaming service will run through 2021, with LFA 78 and LFA 79 being the last events of 2019 before the promotion picks back up in mid-January. While Soares was happy that the organization managed to find a new broadcast deal relatively quickly, he did not mince words when it came to how he felt AXS-TV handled the resolution of its deal.

“It was extremely sudden … it was a little bit shady the way that [AXS] did it, especially the way it all came to an end,” Soares said. “They pulled the rug from underneath our feet, and it definitely put us in a bad situation.”

With that being said, Soares believes UFC Fight Pass will be an all-around improvement for the promotion over AXS-TV. According to the veteran MMA manager, the new agreement allows LFA much more autonomy when it comes to building strategic partnerships, which will lead to increased exposure for the organization. While live LFA events will be shown exclusively on UFC Fight Pass in the United States, internationally the promotion’s cards will be broadcast through various television deals, with a domestic TV deal that shows delayed cards being a possibility, as well.

“The great thing about the UFC deal is that they have enabled us to utilize our rights a lot more than AXS ever allowed us to,” Soares said. “It really benefits us in a lot of ways because we’re going to get a lot more exposure now. Also, having the UFC brand and UFC Fight Pass behind us really opens up a lot of doors, which I think is going to benefit us greatly.”

It is not just the regional promotion that benefits from the partnership. LFA has been considered the top developmental league for the UFC for quite some time now, with current champs like Kamaru Usman, Henry Cejudo and Valentina Shevchenko getting their start in the organization. Under the new deal, the UFC will have access to LFA’s content library, which Soares believes will help build new and upcoming talent faster by showcasing their performances on the regional scene.

“There were so many issues in the past with our broadcast partner on letting the UFC use content. It just makes sense for us to be underneath their umbrella,” he said. “I feel that we’re like a conveyor belt of developing talent for them, and now that they’ll be able to easily access our footage, I think it kind of fast forwards all these young fighters’ careers.”

As part of the move, LFA will be reducing its overall number of shows down to 20 in 2020, with a minimum of 24 in 2021. While the organization had been running around 30 events per year ever since Legacy Fighting Championship and Resurrection Fight Alliance merged back in 2017, Soares believes the cutback will allow for deeper depth of talent to be showcased on each card, making it an overall win for fans. The promotion will also be bringing back some of its on-air talent, including longtime commentators Ron Kruck and UFC hall of famer Pat Miletich, with the hope that cageside reporter Phoenix Carnevale will be brought back sometime in 2020. Miletich expressed his excitement at returning to the organization, stating he was “back in the saddle.”

Overall, the new deal seems to be a win-win for both the LFA and the UFC. While the UFC gains an official partnership with one of its most important feeder leagues and access to its content library, LFA gets increased exposure and a new broadcast partner that secures its position as the premier regional promotion in the United States. Exactly how things play out between the two companies moving forward is still anybody’s guess, but to Soares, the future looks bright.

“Fight Pass enables us to go to locations and markets that we were never able to go to before,” he said. “I’m really excited about this partnership with the UFC. There’s really great things ahead, and I can’t wait to get the ball rolling and for everyone to see what our plans are.”

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