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UFC agrees landmark Japanese partnership

The Ultimate Fighting Championship has agreed a development partnership with fellow mixed martial arts series Vale Tudo Japan that will lead to the formation of a new televised series in the country.

The UFC and VTJ will promote and operate the new tournament series, which will launch later this year. The tournament will feature fighters in the bantamweight and featherweight divisions and will air on Japanese terrestrial television.

The winner of the inaugural show, which the UFC said will be comparable to its The Ultimate Fighter competition, will earn a UFC contract. The MMAFighting.com website said the UFC is expected to announce its terrestrial television partner for the initiative at its September 20 show at the Saitama Super Arena.

UFC president Dana White said the new series will be filmed more like a documentary on the fighters’ lives, leading up to fights. “These guys will become known because of television,” he said. “So you'll have people with some star qualities or you'll have fighters people dislike and want to see them lose, no different from anywhere in the world.

“This show will be very Japanese. It will be shot here in Japan by a big, reputable company, for the Japanese market, to build Japanese stars.”

The new series is also expected to air simultaneously outside Japan through the UFC’s digital streaming service Fight Pass.

“It's still a work in progress,” White said of the Fight Pass coverage. “But if I had to give an answer right now, I'd say, yes, it will.”