NBC Follows CBS Into Mixed-Martial-Arts Ring

NBC is joining CBS in adding mixed martial arts to its programming lineup, although unlike CBS, which is broadcasting the events earlier on Saturday evening, NBC will air its fights at 2 a.m.

NBC struck a deal with Strikeforce, an MMA-promotion company, to produce the fights.

"It's truly an honor to have the opportunity to bring the Strikeforce mixed-martial-arts product to one of the longest-standing and most well-respected national television platforms," Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker said in a statement. "NBC has a history of popular late Saturday TV and, in the 1980s, NBC's Saturday Night's Main Event show helped to catapult the popularity of professional wrestling. Strikeforce is looking to follow in suit and establish a legacy of its own on the network."

NBC will broadcast its first MMA fight, Strikeforce on NBC, April 12 from 2 a.m.-2:30 a.m., following Poker After Dark, a show that it said shares an audience with MMA.

The network has beefed up its late-night programming over the past few years. While its competitors often air repeats or syndicated fare late at night, NBC broadcasts Last Call with Carson Daly from 1:35 a.m.-2:05 a.m. on weekdays, followed by Poker After Dark. On Saturdays, NBC broadcasts Saturday Night Live, followed by either Showtime at The Apollo or Poker After Dark, depending on the local station.

The Strikeforce deal will extend original programming until 2:30 a.m. -- far later than any of its competitors, but when the television audience has shrunk to a very small group of potential viewers.