NFL Network's Dan Hellie, ex-ESPNU host Brendan Fitzgerald to call Dana White 'Contender Series'

(This story first appeared on usatoday.com.)

The broadcast crew for Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series includes some names that may not be all that familiar to UFC fans.

UFC Senior VP of International and Content Joe Carr told USA TODAY Sports that’s sort of the point, and that’s why the promotion tapped NFL Network’s Dan Hellie and former ESPNU host Brendan Fitzgerald to split play-by-play duties for the weekly live fighting series that debuts on Tuesday on UFC Fight Pass.

UFC will make the official announcement of the crew during Saturday’s UFC 213 broadcast. It was previously announced that rapper Snoop Dogg and 2017 UFC Hall of Fame inductee Urijah Faber will call Tuesday Night Contender Series events on an alternate audio feed.

“Dan Hellie and Brendan Fitzgerald both have had long broadcasting careers, even if they haven’t called live fights,” Carr said. “We are not rushing them onto broadcast TV. UFC Fight Pass is a smaller platform so they won’t face as much scrutiny. They won’t be in front of 2-3 million people like they would be on broadcast TV. This will give them more opportunity to learn how to call the sport and earn respect of the fans.”

The series includes five fights each week and will focus not just on prospects, but also veteran fighters looking to make a comeback.

UFC Fight Pass is the promotion’s digital subscription service launched in December 2013 and has been the only way to watch the early preliminary-card fights of UFC events, which had been previously streamed on Facebook. Carr called the the Tuesday Night Contender Series the biggest investment the UFC has made in UFC Fight Pass since its inception.

“Our research through the years has shown what our subscribers want is more live, exclusive fights on the service,” Carr said. “I think about 50 percent of our subscribers will watch the Tuesday Night Contender Series live.”

Carr, citing company policy, declined to state how many monthly subscribers there are for UFC Fight Pass, which ranges in price from $7.99 to $9.99 per month.

Hellie will call Tuesday’s debut with former UFC lightweight Yves Edwards serving as the color commentator. Fitzgerald will be paired with UFC lightweight Paul Felder as the duo debuts July 18. The broadcast crews will alternate weeks during the show’s eight-week run.

“I have been a fan of UFC for a long time,” Hellie said. “Obviously, this is different for me than calling NFL or basketball games, a couple of things I’ve done in the past. This is new experience and I’m just preparing like I would for anything else.”

UFC tried out about 10 play-by-play and color commentators each before the crew was chosen, Carr said.

Hellie credited UFC welterweight Alan Jouban for coming to his Manhattan Beach, Calif., home and giving him a “UFC for Dummies” rundown of the sport before his audition. Hellie has also spoken to UFC’s main play-by-play announcer, Jon Anik, since he learned he got the job.

“(Anik) told me to keep it simple and don’t act like you know something that you don’t,” Hellie said. “In broadcast terms, you ‘lay out’ when there’s something your not familiar with. So, I’ll lay out until I get more comfortable with the terminology and jargon. Until then, I’ll lean on Yves as the color commentator.”

Laura Sanko, a former fighter who has called UFC and Invicta FC events, will serve as the backstage reporter for the broadcasts.

For more on “Dana White’s Contender Series: Week 1,” visit the UFC Rumors section of the site.

Filed under: News
Source: MMA Junkie