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Inside UFC Primetime - Series premieres on Spike TV this Wednesday

Thomas Gerbasi, UFC - 2009 is not even two weeks old, and already anticipation is building for the fight many are calling not only the fight of the year, but the fight of the decade, as UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre meets UFC lightweight champion BJ Penn in a rematch at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas on January 31st.

It’s the type of fight that needs no introduction to true fight fans, but by the same token, it’s also the kind of showdown that can introduce new fans to the sport as its being waged at its highest level.
By Thomas Gerbasi

2009 is not even two weeks old, and already anticipation is building for the fight many are calling not only the fight of the year, but the fight of the decade, as UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre meets UFC lightweight champion BJ Penn in a rematch at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas on January 31st.

It’s the type of fight that needs no introduction to true fight fans, but by the same token, it’s also the kind of showdown that can introduce new fans to the sport as its being waged at its highest level.

Enter UFC Primetime, which premieres on Spike TV on Wednesday, January 14th at 10pm. More than just a countdown show, the series will air in three parts on the three Wednesdays leading up to the fight and take fight fans behind the scenes and into the lives of St-Pierre and Penn like never before. For the UFC, there was no better time than now and no better fight than GSP-Penn to kick off the series.

“This is the biggest fight the UFC has ever promoted, and we knew that both the personalities and the story lines would make for a great show,” said Craig Borsari, the UFC’s Executive Vice President of Operations and Production. “In UFC Primetime, the viewer will see the fighters in situations we've never seen them in before. We typically spend three days with a fighter for a normal Countdown show. For this series we're spending 25 days with each fighter. That gives us the ability to get more spontaneous moments with the fighters. The storytelling will be different also. The viewer will get a much deeper understanding of who these fighters are and what makes them tick.”

Of course, with such an increased commitment to not only gathering the content over a longer period of time, but doing so in such diverse locales as Hawaii and Montreal, there is a lot more involved financially (the series is reportedly six times more expensive than the average Countdown show), and logistics become part of the juggling act.

“The extremely tight turn around is the biggest logistical issue,” said Borsari. “Having one production crew in Hilo, another in Montreal, and our post house in NYC makes it very challenging to get footage back to our producers in NYC in a timely manner and turn it around for air in a matter of days.”

Luckily for the production team, gaining complete access to St-Pierre and Penn has been no issue at all.

“Both fighters have been great in giving us all access to their camps,” said Borsari last week. “We've captured some great moments already and we aren’t even a quarter of the way done with shooting.”

For the viewers at home, the difference between UFC Primetime and the UFC’s usual Countdown shows is that the fighters are being filmed as close to the fight as possible. For example, when you watch the January 28th edition of the show, the content will have been filmed in the previous few days, as opposed to a couple months out. It’s as close as you can get to a weekly training camp update, coupled with interviews with camp and family members that give new insight into what St-Pierre and Penn are going through before the biggest fight of their careers. So don’t expect a re-hash of past material – this is all new and focused on January 31st.

“In this show we're not going to spend a lot of time explaining where these guys came from,” said Borsari. “This show is about being in the moment with each fighter. The viewer will understand who the fighter is by the end of the series and will hopefully develop a deeper interest in one or both of the fighters.”

And if viewers respond to the first three episodes of UFC Primetime, it may not be the last time we see it.

“We'll see how this one goes, but if it’s as successful as we anticipate, then it’s likely you will see a couple of these a year.”

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