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How 'The Ultimate Fighter' Saved UFC

"We literally met with every network, every sports network -- from the big broadcasters, NBC, ABC, CBS, the obvious, ESPN -- multiple times," said Lorenzo Fertitta, the CEO of the UFC in 2004. "Met with anybody that would take a meeting. We couldn't get anybody to bite because everybody was very concerned that the product was too violent, not something they could put on TV. It was too bloody. They didn't want to see guys bleeding on the mat. TV executives were saying this is flat-out boring."

"Our last hope was a new network called Spike," said UFC president Dana White. "They were supposed to be a network for men. So we felt like we fit perfectly there. We met with the guys out in L.A. They couldn't wait to get the hell out of that meeting and go to a Dodgers game."

The quest to find a home for "The Ultimate Fighter" wasn't easy, but it might have been the single most important moment in the history of the UFC, then a 9-year-old company that was still trying to find its place in the sports universe.

Nevada casino owners Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta purchased the Ultimate Fighting Championship in 2001 for $2 million. The siblings thought it could be a hit. So they kept investing, but money kept sinking. By 2004, the Fertittas had put more than $40 million into the UFC.


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