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UFC title challenger Conor McGregor.
UFC title challenger Conor McGregor.
Image: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

RTÉ won't be bidding for the rights to show Conor McGregor's UFC title bout

The Dubliner fights Jose Aldo in Las Vegas on 11 July.
May 11th 2015, 3:02 PM 42,772 104

MIXED MARTIAL ARTS star Conor McGregor will aim to become the first Irishman to win an Ultimate Fighting Championship world title on 11 July.

However, despite suggestions that RTÉ were giving consideration to showing the Las Vegas bout, it looks like the national broadcaster won’t be bidding for the rights.

McGregor, a 26-year-old Dubliner who has taken the MMA world by storm over the past two years, faces defending UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo at UFC 189 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.

TV3 have broadcast delayed coverage of selected UFC events in recent months via 3e, while Irish MMA fans can currently watch UFC events live on BT Sport, which is available through a Setanta Sports subscription.

RTÉ aired McGregor’s six-part documentary series ‘The Notorious’ earlier this year, and although it was enormously popular, budgetary restrictions will prevent them from securing the rights to screen his eagerly-anticipated clash with Aldo this summer.

“It’s not news for me to say that we’ve had to streamline what we’re doing in the last number of years. We had to make some really difficult choices and they were based around a strategy of national teams, national games and major events,” RTE’s Head of Sport Ryle Nugent told The42.

“That meant some incredibly hard decisions because we don’t have the financial ability to buy everything that we would like to buy in the sports rights market. You know we stepped away from our Premier League contract, you know we stepped away from the Pro12 contract, and we’ve had to make some hard decisions.

inpho_00581313 Ryle Nugent, RTÉ's Head of Sport. Source: ©INPHO/Billy Stickland

“Going into another sport at another time is something that is very difficult for us to do. We are absolutely contracted to the best of our ability on our financial terms, so I don’t see it [McGregor versus Aldo] as being something that we’re going to be able to stretch to.”

However, Nugent did admit that RTÉ were monitoring the growth of the sport, which has seen a drastic increase in popularity in Ireland following McGregor’s global success.

Nugent said: “You keep an eye on all sports. It’s very, very difficult in the sports rights market to have the dexterity to move where you need to move. We have to see if the Irish hockey team, for example, qualify for a play-off or an Olympic Games, we were there before, having the ability to go to the Amateur European or World Boxing Championships… you have to have the dexterity to do that.

“It’s not an easy thing to do, because sports rights tend to be bought up two, three, four, and sometimes six, eight, ten years in advance.

“I would never rule anything out definitively, I would never rule anything in definitively. It’s also incredibly competitive, so just because you want to do it doesn’t mean you can do it, particularly if there’s three or four other stations looking for the rights.”

Ryle Nugent was speaking at the launch of RTÉ’s 2015 GAA Championship coverage. RTÉ will broadcast 31 live games in HD across the summer, including all six provincial finals, four All-Ireland Senior quarter-finals, plus All-Ireland Senior semi-finals and finals in both hurling and football.

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Paul Dollery


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