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Rogers Sportsnet cost the UFC at least one pay-per-view buy this past Saturday.

Canadian fight fans were panicked when they heard the announcement last week that the UFC was going to show the UFC 125 preliminary fights not on Spike, but on ION TV in the US. As most Canadians don’t get ION on their cable/satellite systems, this cause some consternation.

But not for long: Showdown Joe Ferraro of Rogers Sportsnet’s MMA Connected show soothed furrowed brows up north by letting folks know Rogers would be showing the fights live.

Terrific! Until you read the fine print: “..Only on Sportsnet Ontario and East.”

What?! What about Sportsnet West and Pacific?

No dice. Instead of the UFC prelims, Sportsnet viewers in Vancouver got to watch a repeat of an old 8-ball tournament. In prime time. While Sportsnet had rights to UFC prelims that they were showing to Ontarians and Maritimers.

Why had this decision been made? Well, James Brydon, live-tweeting the card for Rogers gave followers the “it’s not my call” deflection, while Showdown Joe was telling his followers that they shouldn’t complain, rather they should subscribe to those channels.

Here’s the thing, Joe: These were fights being shown FREE TO AIR in the US, UK, Australia and more. Sportsnet had the facility to show them to viewers of the whole network but instead opted to cater to the 19 people who were really looking forward to a show the program guide described in one word – “Pool.” Why? Well, Showdown Joe all but admitted it was a cynical ploy to get folks to upgrade their cable packages.

To me, that’s a disgrace. With Dana White telling Canadian fight fans via Twitter that they would get to see the prelims in Canada via Sportsnet, the folks at Rogers managed to turn what should have been a coup for them, and further evidence that they are “the home of MMA” into a public relations crapstorm that, instead, illustrates the need for TheScore to get their wallet out and take the UFC away from Sportsnet next chance they get.

TheScore does a tremendous job airing local MMA (that is, MMA from everywhere in Canada but Vancouver, since Vancouver city staff are still not allowing any MMA during their MMA trial period), and while Rogers airs The Ultimate Fighter and free PPV’s from Europe, as well as Ferraro’s excellent Connected show, you can’t claim you’re all about MMA if you’re flat out refusing to show people one of the highest rated free to air MMA products.

And why show it in Ontario but not Alberta and B.C.? Is the network really so Torontocentric that we matter less out in the west?

Personally, I had planned to take in the pay-per-view Saturday with friends at home. That would have been $59 in the UFC’s bank account, as we would have taken on the HD version for sure. 

But I wasn’t about to permanently change my cable package to ensure we could see Phil Baroni sat on his behind, so instead we jumped in the car and headed to the pub, and watched it all for free.

Dana White should be steamed about Sportsnet’s move as it cost his company money and pissed off a lot of local fans, if Twitter traffic is anything to go by. And the UFC is not built on pissing off its fans.

Thankfully (after being turned away from two bars that were closing early due to New Years), we found a bar in time to catch all the action, including Brian Stann’s vindication KO of Chris Leben, and the classic Rocky remake of the Frankie Edgar/Gray Maynard epic title fight draw.

I managed to pick half the results on a card packed with upsets (Kim, Stann, Poirier, draw), which gave me the win in the ultra-minor celebrity pickem run by Dave Teixeira (http://ht.ly/3woId). Dave picked Baroni for the win, thereby proving he’s all about the irony more than precision.

But that’s neither here nor there. Thanks to Sportsnet, I saved $59. So I guess I should be thankful.

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