ESPN Renews Martial Arts US Open

The US Open martial-arts tournament will continue to be shown on ESPN networks, as a deal was struck to show the 2006 and 2007 events, starting with coverage of the July 2006 event Friday night on ESPN2.

The events -- the annual world championships for the International Sport Karate Association, the sport's global sanctioning body -- are held annually on July 4th weekend at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla. They span three days and include title events in breaking, sparring, weapons and empty-handed forms and self-defense. The open-elimination phase of the tournament draws nearly 3,000 participants, who vie for spots in the seed rounds with the world's top rated competitors.

The tape-delay broadcast of the 2006 event will air in four parts on ESPN2, all in primetime on Friday nights, with the first show airing at 7 p.m. (EST) Jan.12, followed by shows at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 26 and Feb. 9 and at 9:30 p.m. Feb.16.

"The US Open has proven itself to be one of the world's premier events in an extremely exciting participant sport. It has performed well for us since 1998, and we're glad to have it as an ESPN property for another two years," ESPN programming manager Doug Loughrey said in a release.

Presenting sponsorship arrangements with the Paul Mitchell hair-care company and broadcast sponsorships with Asian World Products and Team Mannatech were also announced by event co-producer Mike Sawyer.