By Dave Meltzer on Apr 17, 2016, 11:00p
Campbell McLaren, who was in charge of the UFC in its early years, is back in business with the company as his Combate Americas promotion has signed a multi-year deal to be part of UFC Fight Pass.
The deal begins with a Monday night show from Los Angeles.
The first of what will be a minimum of eight events on Fight Pass in 2016 will be a show where the top three matches will also be broadcast on NBC Universo. The show is headlined by a featherweight fight featuring Erick Sanchez (6-2) of Team Alpha Male facing Mike Segura (4-2), a flyweight fight with Jesse Cruz (8-5) against Jonathan Martinez (6-2) and featherweights Angel Cruz (5-1) vs. Mario Navarro (4-4).
"Segura is the style of Hispanic fighter that you can't knock out," said McLaren. "Erick's very well-rounded, comes from Team Alpha Male, trains under Urijah Faber. He's a great athlete, very fast. I think you'll see Segura want to go toe-to-toe with him."
"Eight is the minimum (number of shows for 2016) in the contract," McLaren noted for 2016. "There might be more."
"We are thrilled to add Combate Americas to UFC Fight Pass' ever-growing list of live-event and on-demand offerings," said UFC Executive Vice President and Chief Content Officer Marshall Zelaznik. "MMA fans can expect tremendous fights featuring up-and-coming Hispanic talent.".
Combat Americas was formed as a reality show in 2014 which turned into a live event promotion on NBC Universo, focusing on Latin fighters, airing in Spanish and geared for the Latin audience.
Monday's event will be a four-hour show starting at 9 p.m. Eastern on Fight Pass, coming from the 1,000-seat Los Angeles Exchange, which McLaren said is already sold out. The entire show will air in English, with announcers Ray Flores, Andrea Calle and fighter Nicdali Rivera. The final hour, featuring the aforementioned fights, will air in English on Fight Pass with a Spanish language simulcast on NBC Universo starting at midnight Eastern time.
A unique twist on Monday's event will be features related to the first UFC event, on Nov. 12, 1993 in Denver, which McLaren presided over.
"We'll show some stuff from UFC 1," he said about things that will be exclusive to the Fight Pass broadcast this week. "There's an introductory piece I created for the first UFC, and an ad for the first show."
Monday's show will be the first of eight straight one hour shows on NBC Universo at midnight. Not every show will air on Fight Pass, which will air roughly one, and sometimes two events live per month according to McLaren.
"It's an introduction to Combate Americas," said McLaren. "We're going to talk about why we're different. We're using the term la jaula, because it's sounds so much more badass than the cage."
En la jaula is the term used in the Mexican culture for cage matches in pro wrestling, actually popularized in Southern California during the late 60s and then spreading to Mexican Lucha Libre.
The plan is to do live events on April 18, April 25 (where they are going live plus taping a show for the following Monday) and May 9 from the Los Angeles Exchange. The rest of the eight weeks will include shows from other venues, with McLaren mentioning Miami and Las Vegas as potential sites.
McLaren said almost all MMA promotions run on Friday and Saturday, so they'll have Monday nights exclusive, although conceded it will be going against WWE's Monday Night Raw show. This kept McLaren from using Alberto Del Rio of WWE as one of his announcers for now, although he hopes to have him for later events.
McLaren said he envisioned at some point making a deal with UFC, but said it came quicker than expected.
"I'm ahead of schedule in terms of what we planned," he said. "We've been Spanish first and foremost. That's what we've focused on. The Hispanic fighters and Hispanic fans are what we looked for. But when this opportunity came up, Dana (White) responded to a suggestion immediately, and that was cool. We thought this was a great way to bring in the non-Spanish speaking fan. I love the UFC, so I feel like I'm going home, but in no way does this water down the product or make the product less Hispanic"
Jen Wenk, who formerly was the head of Public Relations for UFC and is now the President of STAR Public Relations, brokered the deal.
"This was an exceptional deal to accomplish, since it's the first where UFC Fight Pass will share live programming with a national TV network, and with English as the secondary language and product," said Wenk. "I think UFC appreciates how Combate Americas will diversity their product offerings and expand their subscriber base, especially as it relates to the $1.3 trillion Hispanic consumer market that exists here int he U.S."
McLaren's goal is to make his promotion the top choice on where to go for Hispanic fighters, and noted focusing on women fighters as well.
"We pay the women the same as men, not like the soccer world," he joked.
But he insisted that he is not looking to turn this into a feeder system for UFC.
"All our fighters are signed to multi-fight contracts," he said. "I love the UFC. I know Joe Silva is watching this carefully, but this isn't a feeder system to the UFC. This is a way to bring in new fighters and new fans."