UFC Eyeing Return to Broadcast TV, with Jan. 16 Fight Island Card Targeted for ABC

UFC Fight Island
ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - JULY 09: A general view of the Octagon at Yas Beach ahead of the UFC Fight Island series of events on July 09, 2020 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

The UFC spent the entirety of 2020 on cable and streaming services in the U.S., but that looks set to change in 2021. On Tuesday, multiple reports noted that the promotion’s January 16 Fight Island card is expected to air on ABC.

Oddly enough, a parody account on social media network Twitter was seemingly first to break the news.

The UFC is currently aired on ESPN and ESPN+ (their streaming service) in the United States. Outside of Pay-Per-View events, their entire 2020 slate was split between these two services.

However, both ABC and ESPN are owned by the same parent company: Disney. And apparently, the House of Mouse sees big enough potential to consider airing a UFC event on its flagship television network.

Currently, the UFC’s January 16 card (UFC Fight Island 7), which is headlined by Max Holloway vs. Calvin Kattar in a key featherweight match-up, is listed for ESPN+. Both prelims and the main card are set to air on the service, with the preliminary card kicking off at 12PM ET. However, a change in networks would be easy enough, and the preliminary card would likely remain on the ESPN side of things. How many main card fights would actually air on ABC is unknown at the moment.

No official announcement has been made by the promotion, ABC, or Disney at this time.

The last time the UFC aired a live event on broadcast television was in December 2018. The final event of the FOX era, UFC on FOX 31, saw Al Iaquinta defeat Kevin Lee in the main event. The organization’s debut on that network, in 2011, saw an entire broadcast built around a single fight: the heavyweight title bout between Cain Velasquez and Junior Dos Santos. Brazil’s Dos Santos won the bout in 64 seconds.

Let’s hope at least two fights make it onto the ABC broadcast.