Ultimate Fighting Championship may be a sport based on brutal combat, but it's nothing but friendly with Facebook. It will live-stream fights on the social site for the third time in the last six weeks on Saturday, when it holds its "UFC 127" event.
Two preliminary fights will exclusively run on its Facebook page from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. EST. Viewers will be required to "like" UFC in order to watch. The brand picked up 123,000 of its 4.8 million "likes" on Jan. 22 when it first tested the live-streams on Facebook.
It now appears to be hooked on the idea. Dana White, UFC president, recently told MMAJunkie.com that his brand has been buoyed by the viral ability to reach international audiences through the social site. He said that viral element was integral to why his marketing team moved live-streams from UFC.com to Facebook.
"It's people connecting with other people," White said in the MMAJunkie.com article. "My thing is, and this is my philosophy about fights, everybody wants to see a fight. The problem is letting everybody know that it's on."
As part of UFC 127, three other preliminary bouts will be on Ion Television after the Facebook-only fights end. The remaining headlining fights will be available to pay-per-view TV consumers.
A UFC spokesperson told ClickZ that the sports brand believes distributing preliminary fights on Facebook indeed entices viewers to continue watching on TV.
Whether or not the Palo Alto, CA-based social site will become a noteworthy sports broadcasting platform remains to be seen. But as White has suggested, the site offers live events marketers intriguing alternatives to television. For example, Levi's sponsored a live-streamed Nada Surf rock concert on the brand's Facebook page four months ago that increased the apparel brand’s "likes" by 45,000.
Meanwhile, according to a source close to the NBA, the basketball league is in exploratory discussions with YouTube to live-stream games to Asia markets. And NBA spokesperson Mike Bass issued the following statement: "We're pleased that YouTube recognizes the value of live sports."
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Christopher Heine was a senior writer for ClickZ through June 2012. He covered social media, sports/entertainment marketing, retail, and more. Heine's work has also appeared via Mashable, Brandweek, DM News, MarketingSherpa, and other tech- and ad-centric publications. USA Today, Bloomberg Radio, and The Los Angeles Times have cited him as an expert journalist.