ESPN Deportes Planning MMA Reality Show (Updated)

ESPN Deportes, the Spanish-language channel of ESPN, is reportedly in the early stages of planning a mixed martial arts reality show that will be loosely based on “The Contender” boxing series that the channel produced in recent years according to Dave Meltzer’s latest notebook for Yahoo! Sports.

The show is said to likely be featuring fighters from the featherweight, lightweight, and middleweight classes and could include a number of fighters that competed under the EliteXC banner if their contract situations are figured out in the coming weeks:

Several sources within mixed martial arts have confirmed that the ESPN corporate family of networks is making moves to get into the sport.

The plans appear to involve a reality show that would be taped during the spring, looking at using featherweight, lightweight and middleweight fighters. No other details of the show are available, other then a loose idea of modeling it after “The Contender,” the boxing show the network recently dropped.

According to an ESPN spokesman, the potential show would air on Spanish-language ESPN Deportes.

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ESPN is said to be interested in several fighters who were with the recently folded Elite XC. But all those fighters are still on hold, as the organization has not released fighters from their contracts. For legal reasons, EXC recently sent several fighters a form letter stating the company was planning shows in 2009.

Industry sources have stated ESPN has offered name fighters both signing bonuses and per-fight guarantees that would be above industry standards for fighters of their caliber

I was never a fan of either version of “The Contender”, so I’m hoping that ESPN will stay away from that format as much as possible. With that said, I’m sure many wish that ESPN would be producing this show for their regular network instead of ESPN Deportes, but at least they are finally broadening their coverage of the sport in some capacity.

Update 9:30 PM ET: Sherdog.com has now more details regarding the venture, which could possibly lead to ESPN Deportes airing actual MMA events on the network as soon as the spring of next year:

Promotional newcomer Bellator Fighting Championships has secured a broadcast deal with ESPN Deportes to begin airing MMA events as early as April 2009, numerous sources have confirmed to Sherdog.com.

Santa Brito, Communications Manager for ESPN Deportes, confirmed on Monday that the Spanish-language channel is in “the early developmental stages of an MMA program.” Brito would not divulge further information, but clarified that ESPN was currently not developing any MMA programming on its English-language networks.

Sources have told Sherdog.com that the proposed 12-week fight series will center around four eight-man tournaments utilizing the 145-, 155-, 170- and 185-pound divisions. Non-tournament bouts will also be featured. It is not clear if the events will run live or on tape delay. Multiple locations across the nation are being considered for the 12-week shoot, sources have told Sherdog.com.

American Top Team’s Jorge Masvidal and Dream standout Eddie Alvarez have been two of the better-known candidates approached to participate on the Hispanic-focused roster.

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