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King of Rock and Roll, meet the King of Television Drama.
Spike -- formerly Spike TV, formerly the ominously titled Nashville Network -- announced Wednesday its intention to bring a total of 10 UFC event preliminary specials to air in 2010.
The deal cements what most suspected: that running barker shows prior to pay-per-view events is a win/win for both the network and the promotion. Spike gets a chunk of live programming; the UFC can make a direct appeal to its core audience to fork over dough for more dislocated ankles.
I'm never too quick to draw parallels between pro wrestling and an actual sport, but it's interesting to witness how both boxing -- via HBO's "24/7" series -- and the UFC have found viable business plans in the template laid out by Vince McMahon. Through the funnel of free television, McMahon would develop stories and build matches, delivering two acts of a three-act play on the house and then charging out the nose for the resolution.
This kind of deal with a basic cable network is the single biggest reason for the UFC's rash of success in the latter half of the decade. Without that build, you're dead on arrival.