UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez will defend his title for the first time in a bout against No. 1 contender Junior dos Santos in the sport’s inaugural Fox telecast, UFC Chairman Dana White announced Friday afternoon. The bout will be at 9 p.m. on Nov. 12 in Anaheim, Calif., the same night as Manny Pacquiao’s WBO title defense against Juan Manuel Marquez.
The main event is scheduled for five rounds and will be the only fight shown in the hour-long broadcast as UFC makes its initial foray into network television and continues its growth from a niche sport over the past decade.
“We’re not mainstream. Mainstream is when you walk down the streets of any major city anywhere and ask if they know what basketball is,” White said in a conference call. “That is mainstream. What we’re getting here is we’re getting the opportunity from Fox to become mainstream.”
UFC has been hugely popular on cable television, with a fight in 2009 featuring Kimbo Slice drawing 6.1 million viewers on Spike TV, according to the cable channel. That number was a record for Spike TV and at the time was the most-watched original episode in Spike TV’s six-year history.
White said on Friday he expects the Velasquez-Dos Santos bout to shatter that mark not only because of the quality of the fighters but also thanks to an aggressive promotional campaign on the part of Fox. Part of that includes teasing the fight during NFL games, which are the most-viewed sporting events in the most popular sports league in the United States.
Other promotional spots will are scheduled to appear in Fox telecasts of college football and baseball beginning on Saturday.
UFC and Fox last month announced a seven-year deal worth $100 million annually. Fox will show four UFC events per year, and affiliate cable channel FX will broadcast 32.
Velasquez has not fought since October of last year, when he beat Brock Lesnar with a first-round TKO to claim the heavyweight title. Dos Santos’s last bout was a victory over Shane Carwin in June that elevated him to top contender.
“They couldn’t be more excited,” White said of Velasquez and dos Santos. “They know how big this is. They know what this means to the sport and to the UFC and to their careers personally. They’re honored, they’re pumped, and it’s going to be a great fight.”