Debut UFC on Fox card will be heavyweight title [Updated]
The fight organization announced Friday it will use its heavyweight championship between champion Cain Velasquez and Junior Dos Santos as the only bout of its debut on Fox television Nov. 12 at Anaheim's Honda Center.
Tickets will go on sale Sept. 9 at the arena.
"This was a no-brainer, the fight that was right in front of our face," UFC President Dana White said. "We wanted to go on with our best foot forward."
Unbeaten former Arizona State wrestler Velasquez (9-0, eight knockouts) and Brazilian Dos Santos (13-1, eight knockouts, three submissions) were scheduled to fight Nov. 19 on a pay-per-view card at San Jose's HP Pavilion.
White said it "took about three and a half minutes to get both deals done," for what the promoter said will be "the most-watched MMA event in North American history."
"They know how much this means to the sport, the UFC, and their careers personally."
[UPDATED, 11:51 a.m., Sept. 2]: The UFC event landed on the same night that boxing's top pound-for-pound fighter, Manny Pacquiao, will fight Mexico's Juan Manuel Marquez on pay-per-view at MGM Grand in Las Vegas. White, who's engaged Pacquiao promoter Bob Arum in back-and-forth criticism recently, said he doesn't care how the boxing match fares in pay-per-view buys, although he likes Pacquiao and says he's "torn."
As for his own fighters' move off pay-per-view, White confided "they're being paid" additionally "just fine" to compensate for the loss of pay-per-view upside. [END UPDATE].
The UFC and Fox last month announced a seven-year deal worth $100 million annually that will place four fights a year on the network, while also airing the organization's popular "The Ultimate Fighter" reality television series and other live fights on its cable network, FX.
White promised to give Fox big cards and called the return of Velasquez from a near-13-month layoff following a right shoulder injury (torn rotator cuff) versus the powerful Dos Santos "the most prestigious match-up possible."
Velasquez's last fight was Oct. 23, 2010, at Honda Center, when he scored a first-round technical knockout of then-champion Brock Lesnar. The 6-foot-4, 240-pound Dos Santos has defeated respected heavyweights Mirko Filipovic, Gabriel Gonzaga, Roy Nelson and Shane Carwin (the last by unanimous decision in June).
"Both guys have power," White said. "You saw what Cain did against Brock. Obviously, his game plan is to take down Junior Dos Santos, which no one has yet. If [Velasquez] can take it to the ground, it'll be interesting."
White said the hour-long broadcast, scheduled to start live at 6 p.m. Pacific time, will feature pre- and post-fight shows tailored to address the "millions who will be tuning in [to the sport] for the first time. We need time to set up 'The UFC's on Fox,' and all that."
Fox will assume some production duties from the UFC, which White has been reluctant to relinquish in the past.
"This guy [Fox Sports Chairman David Hill] has forgotten more about production than I'll ever know," White said. "We want their input and we want to work hand in hand."
"Dana and the UFC have been great partners to us for many years," said Tim Ryan, president of Honda Center. "As host to the first UFC event in California, we're excited to be part of another landmark night for the sport. We couldn't ask for a better match-up, having watched firsthand as Cain won the UFC heavyweight title here at Honda Center in October, and know Nov. 12 will be an unforgettable night in Anaheim."
White said he is "working on" a replacement pay-per-view headliner in San Jose Nov. 19.
-- Lance Pugmire
Photo: Cain Velasquez. Credit: Handout.