ESPN still isn't in the business of broadcasting mixed martial arts fights in the U.S., but it will soon add MMA programming to its airwaves, Yahoo! Sports has learned.
The popular web-only show "MMA Live," which has been broadcast exclusively on ESPN.com, will soon become a half-hour weekly show on ESPN2.
A source told Yahoo! Sports that not only will the show air on ESPN2, either on Wednesday or Thursday afternoons, but that it will be broadcast on TSN in Canada, as well.
UPDATE from Cofield: Sources tell Cagewriter that "MMA Live" will debut on ESPN2 on Thursday May 6 (1 a.m. ET/10 p.m. PT). There will be a special show to preview UFC 113 on May 8 on ESPN2 (9 p.m. ET).
The show returns to its weekly Thursday slot on May 13, 20 and 27.
The schedule also includes a special postfight show from UFC 114 in Las Vegas (1 a.m. ET/10 p.m. PT)
The current team is expected to remain in place, with Jon Anik as the host, Franklin McNeil as the reporter and fighters Kenny Florian, Frank Mir, Stephan Bonnar and Miguel Torres as co-hosts and expert analysts.
The show has proven popular with MMA fans on the Internet and features interviews, highlights, previews, fighter profiles and how-to segments.
ESPN.com does not have a full-time reporter devoted to MMA and gets most of its content from a partnership relationship with Sherdog. UFC president Dana White recently decided to not give Sherdog credentials for UFC cards.
ESPN in the United Kingdom has a broadcast deal with the Ultimate Fighting Championship and airs programming and its pay-per-view cards.
It would be a huge advance for the sport in the U.S. if a giant like ESPN were to air MMA programming and cover the sport regularly.
Putting "MMA Live" on television is a good first step.