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DirecTV Adds Combat Sports Franchise

DirecTV will throw its hat into the combat-sports ring with the August launch of a new franchise combining the action of boxing and mixed martial arts.

Big Knockout Boxing (BKB) will make its debut on the satellite-TV provider’s pay-per-view platform Aug. 16 and promises to live up to its name by providing more exciting fights featuring lots of knockouts, according to BKB co-commissioner and DirecTV vice president of marketing Alex Kaplan.

While similar to boxing, the sport features a circular ring dubbed “the pit” with no ropes or corners that is twice as small as a traditional square boxing ring to encourage more action. BKB features two-minute rounds instead of boxing’s current three-minute rounds, and fights will last five to seven rounds, instead of the 10 to 12 rounds typical for a boxing match.


“While it is based on boxing, we look at this as something that’s not competing head-on with boxing,” Kaplan said. “We look at this as a third entry and being incremental within our combat-sports business.”

BKB hopes to attract young mixed martial arts fans as well as boxing enthusiasts looking for more action-packed bouts and knockouts.

DirecTV customers are really big combat-sports fans and can support more than one type of combat sport, Kaplan said.

The company’s August PPV event will sell for a suggested retail price of $29.99 and feature as its main event a fight between up-and-coming middleweight boxers Bryan Vera and Gabe Rosado. The fight will take place in Las Vegas and is licensed by the Nevada State Athletic Commission, which oversees pro boxing and MMA events.

Kaplan said BKB hopes to hold at least one more fight this year before offering as many as six events next year. BKB could eventually draw in some top boxing fighters looking to mix it up in a different environment, he said.

“We see no reason why fighters can’t fight in our sport and then also fight in boxing, just the way a track and field athlete can compete in the 100- meter and the long jump in the same Olympics,” Kaplan said.

While PPV will be the initial platform for the sport, Kaplan wouldn’t rule out offering the sport to cable or broadcast networks in the future. “We love the PPV business — it’s good for DirecTV and good for our competitors … this is about creating a franchise and meeting consumer demands,” Kaplan said. “We think we’re in a unique position to do that.”


The network already has a staunch supporter with ties to boxing. Richard Schaefer, former CEO of boxing’s top promotional company Golden Boy Productions, who has talked to DirecTV and BKB executives about the sport, said BKB has the potential to become a lucrative third leg in the combat sports platform along with boxing and MMA and will not siphon fans away from either sport.

“I look at it as a different sport — it really lends itself to be a really attractive sport to a younger demographic and I think it’s appealing to any person that’s interested in contact sports and sports in general,” he said.

The launch of BKB comes as boxing has experienced an uptick in the number of PPV events this year. Through July, the sport has featured five major PPV events compared to just one during the same period last year. Further, the category has scheduled a Sept. 13 fight between Floyd Mayweather and Maidana Marcos — a rematch of their May 3 PPV event.

R. Thomas Umstead
R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.