UFC is bringing the pain to the new digital-only BBC Three

BBC Three
UFC brings the pain to BBC Three

Viewers are set to start getting their UFC action from a rather unlikely source, as BBC Three has signed a new deal to deliver fight content from the EMEA region (Europe, Middle East and Africa).

The BBC's youth-oriented channel went off-the-air last week, switching to a digital-only platform, spearheaded by a redesigned website and accessed via the BBC's iPlayer applications.

The news of a major, up-and-coming sport hitting the channel will be a boost in the face of what has hitherto seemed like a winding-up of BBC Three.

We're not talking about full bout coverage of UFC's mixed martial arts here though. BBC Three is going to provide both pre- and post-fight video coverage from its website and social media channels, as well as live fight commentary.

BT Sport is still the place to go for wider video coverage of live events, though its deal with UFC runs out at the end of July after UFC 200 kicks off in Las Vegas on the 9th.

BT Sport's UFC coverage

Fight club

But with UFC increasingly looking to its own streaming service, UFC Fight Pass, to provide exclusive big bout coverage - as it's doing with this Saturday's Fight Night Live at the O2 Arena - having BBC Three in support could be a great way to bring in more fans and push potential viewers to the pay-per-view events.

It's an interesting move by the BBC as it looks to provide a refreshed service, targeted at a younger demographic, and experiment with different content.

"BBC Three has a history of covering emerging sports that appeal to young audiences in new ways," said BBC Three's controller, Damian Kavanagh. "And our coverage of UFC will be no different."

Last year saw the BBC provide live coverage of the League of Legends World Championships from Wembley, and it wouldn't be a surprise to see BBC Three giving ever more credence to eSports from its new digital home.

These up-and-coming sports could provide a great base from which the new BBC Three could grow, though should its UFC or eSports coverage gain serious traction will it have the purchasing power to take these more experimental licenses further?