The opening bell for ESPN’s live coverage of UFC 168 Saturday night in Las Vegas began this morning, about 36 hours before middleweight champ Chris Weidman meets former belt-holder Anderson Silva at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas (10 p.m. ET, Saturday, pay-per-view).
On-site for SportsCenter’s coverage is anchor Todd Grisham, analyst Gilbert Melendez and ESPN Insider Brett Okamoto, heading a full crew providing blanket coverage of the much-anticipated rematch – Weidman took the title from Silva at July’s UFC 162. Included in the weekend of UFC reporting and storytelling is a takeover of the @SportsCenter Twitter and Instagram feeds by UFC president Dana White, being billed as #DanaCenter.
“It’s great to be a part of our coverage in Vegas — this is what SportsCenter is all about, providing fans smart coverage of a major sporting event,” said Senior Coordinating Producer Glenn Jacobs, a UFC fan familiar with the MMA landscape through his prior work on ESPN2’s MMA Live. “The visual demonstrations Gilbert has done, for example, are interesting and informative. I think fans will really enjoy what we’re doing out here.”
What Jacobs and the team on-site are doing are live reports for today’s 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. SportsCenters, and a live segment on the 6 p.m. show previewing SportsCenter’s live weigh-in coverage at 7:15 p.m., which will include 1-on-1 interviews with Weidman (10-0 mixed martial arts, 6-0 UFC), Silva (33-5, 16-1) and Ronda Rousey (7-0, 1-0) and Miesha Tate (13-4, 0-1) who meet in the co-feature. Pieces for other SportsCenters will also be produced, along with segments for MMA Live and ESPN’s digital platforms.
MMA veteran Jacobs is joined in Vegas by UFC rookie – but ESPN veteran – Andrea Pelkey, who is responsible for producing the content.
“This is my first UFC assignment, and as a fan of sports, this fight card is filled with amazing athletes I can’t wait to show to our SportsCenter fans,” Pelkey said. “We will be octagon-side for live pre- and post-fight coverage, which will include winners of the main and co-main events on our set.
“The access the UFC is allowing us will give our audience an insider’s view of an historic card with a ton of story lines,” she said. “As for the #DanaCenter tie-in, you can’t really get closer to the action then to be with the UFC President, can you?”