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ESPN+ Leans Hard Into Combat Sports This Weekend

“It may be early in the relationship, but UFC and ESPN seem to have found each other at just the right time to get a few wins under each company’s respective belts.”

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ESPN Plus

UFC Fight Night on ESPN+ was a huge success for the streaming platform when it debuted January 19. ESPN will hope to continue that wave with a heavy serving of combat sports this Saturday.

UFC Fight Night starts the night with prelims at 5 p.m. EST on ESPN from Fortaleza, Brazil, and a main card that features two main events as UFC legend Jose Aldo returns to take on Ronaldo Moicano while the closing fight pits Raphael Assuncao against Marlon Moraes in a matchup where the winner is expected to be in line for a shot at TJ Dillashaw’s UFC Bantamweight Championship.

Not only will ESPN feature the UFC Saturday night, the “Worldwide Leader in Sports” will also feature boxing on it’s streaming and network services beginning at 7 p.m. EST and continuing into the twilight hours of Sunday morning.

Featured boxing matches include Oscar Valdez (24-0, 19 KOs) vs. Carmine Tommasone (19-0, 5 KOs), for Valdez’s WBO featherweight world title and Eleider Alvarez (24-0, 12 KOs) vs. Sergey Kovalev (32-3-1, 28 KOs), for Alvarez’s WBO light heavyweight world title.

It may be early in the relationship, but UFC and ESPN seem to have found each other at just the right time to get a few wins under each company’s respective belts. If Saturdays (or weekends in general) begin to stack up like this one, boxing could see some of the benefits as well.

ESPN is dubbing the boxing portion of the night Super Saturday across the three separate events, but in truth, the whole evening is “super” for combat sports fans. ESPN is giving those fans a chance to watch quality fights without breaking the bank with the possibility of an underwhelming finish.

Another win for ESPN+, another win for digital streaming.

Sports Online

Omaha Productions Eyes Investment From Peter Chernin’s Content Studio

An investment from Chernin’s group to Omaha Productions would allow the company to “expand further into digital content, podcasts and sports-adjacent entertainment”.

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A report from Axios’ Sara Fischer claims Omaha Productions is in discussions with The North Road Company, a content studio founded by Peter Chernin, for a substantial investment in Peyton Manning’s production company.

Chernin launched The North Road Company in July with $800 million in funding to create scripted and unscripted projects for TV and film distributors.

According to Fischer, an investment from Chernin’s group to Omaha Productions would allow the company to “expand further into digital content, podcasts and sports-adjacent entertainment”.

Omaha Productions has most recently expanded into more digitally focused, sports-adjacent programming. It recently announced an expansion of it’s Places franchise with non-sports subjects like Luke Bryan, LL Cool J, and Admiral William McRaven.

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Sports Online

Washington Post Reporter Sally Jenkins Details Jerry Jones Reporting to Dan Le Batard

“We just started to research to ask him questions about it and we came across that photo.”

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A report from The Washington Post that featured a photo of Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones witnessing the controversial integration of North Little Rock High School in 1957 caused a stir late last week, and one of the reporters on the project, Sally Jenkins, detailed how it came to be to Dan Le Batard Monday.

“It was part of a larger project,” Jenkins said of the discovery of the photo. “We came across this photo of Jones. It’s at the start of the school year at North Little Rock High School. He’s on the cusp of his 15th birthday and he’s very clearly identifiable in the photo, which ran on the front page of The New York Times in 1957 because Little Rock was undergoing a real crisis of desegregating it’s schools to the the point that (President Dwight D.) Eisenhower had to send the 101st Airborne into Little Rock to quell violence over black kids trying to go to white schools.

“We knew that Jerry Jones had witness — or at least lived through — a tough civil rights era in Little Rock, and we wanted to talk to him about that. We just started to research it to ask him questions about it and we came across that photo.”

The Washington Post debuted a nine-part series entitled “Blackout” that dove into why there are not more minority head coaches in the NFL. They asked every NFL owner for an interview for the project, but Jones was the only one to agree.

Stugotz asked Jenkins if it was fair to judge someone from a photo taken of them while they were a child, referring to some of the media backlish pushed towards Jones because of the photo.

“Of course not,” Jenkins said. “What is fair is to ask him about what he witnessed, ask him what he experienced, ask him how his views may have changed, or if they did change at all, ask him how he has evolved on issues of social justice or racial justice. And the fact is he has evolved, particularly recently. He started out as a real hard-liner on the Colin Kaepernick situation. At one point, Jerry Jones said ‘The Dallas Cowboys will stand for the anthem and tow the line’, and he’s really softened on that.”

She later conceded the answers Jones provided won’t satisfy everyone, and said there are legitimate questions about his positioning in the photograph, noting the Little Rock Six were spit on, and had the n-word shouted at them from those standing on the steps where Jones was located.

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Sports Online

Mike Francesa: George Steinbrenner’s Idea to Put Mike and The Mad Dog On YES Network

“It was George’s idea. So give him credit for it. He wanted Mike and The Mad Dog as part of the CBS Radio contract, and we were.”

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Mike and The Mad Dog is often cited as one of, if not the, best sports radio shows of all time. The show saw an expanded reach with its partnership with the YES Network beginning in 2002. During his podcast Tuesday, Mike Francesa gave all the credit to the simulcast hitting the air on YES Network to the late Yankees owner George Steinbrenner.

“It was George Steinbrenner that came up with the idea of Mike and The Mad Dog being on the YES Network. No one else,” Francesa said.

“They came to us when they were negotiating a new radio deal with him and they said ‘Hey, we need a quick answer on this. Would you guys want to be on the YES Network every day, simulcasting? You know what Imus is doing with MSNBC? We wanna do it with you guys, but we need a very quick answer’.”

Francesa said the show airing on YES Network was a sticking point for the Yankees in negotiations with CBS Radio to continue airing the franchise’s broadcasts.

“Our first deal with them were not for a lot of money. Our later deals with them were for a very significant amount of money. But it was George’s idea. So give him credit for it. He wanted Mike and The Mad Dog as part of the CBS Radio contract, and we were. Our joining the YES Network was part of the CBS Radio contract.”

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