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When AFC season opens Wednesday, its audience will be worldwide

  • Author: Beth Bragg
  • Updated: September 28, 2016
  • Published September 27, 2016

“Naptime” Nic Herron-Webb feigns sleep as he squares off for photos with opponent Chris “One Punch” Dempsey after the Alaska Fighting Championship weigh-in him in at the Aviator Hotel in downtown Anchorage, Alaska on Tuesday. The lightweight matchup is the main event for the opening night of fights. The fights will be live streamed by UFC this year. (Bob Hallinen / Alaska Dispatch News)

The Alaska Fighting Championship will go global this season.

Beginning with Wednesday night's season-opening event at Sullivan Arena, the AFC will be available in more than 200 countries on UFC Fight Pass, the Ultimate Fighting Championship's online broadcast platform.

Livestream coverage of the AFC's monthly events and on-demand access to its fight archives will become part of Fight Pass thanks to a deal struck earlier this year between the UFC and AFC owner Sarah Lorimer.

"It's like the Netflix of fights, is what it is," Lorimer said of Fight Pass.

The five-year deal is one of the biggest thing to happen to AFC since Lorimer bought the promotion in 2007. It was founded in 2004.

The deal will bring increased exposure for fighters, which in turn could increase their chances for a shot at a UFC appearance.

Since last week weekend, the AFC has been promoted heavily by the UFC on social media. Shots of glaciers and interviews with Lorimer and AFC veterans Nic Herron Webb and Tyler Milner are all over the Fight Pass Facebook and Twitter feeds.

"My phone is blowing up," Lorimer said.

Among those calling, she said, are regional fighters from all over the country eager to get a chance to have their fights livestreamed, she said.

Hippa “Redneck Samoan” Fovale hands his hat off so Sarah Lorimer, the owner of the Alaska Fighting Championship, can weigh him in again at the Aviator Hotel in downtown Anchorage on Tuesday. The fights will be live streamed by UFC this year. In the background is cage girl Annie Salsman. (Bob Hallinen / Alaska Dispatch News)

All of the fighters on Wednesday's card are Alaskans or have Alaska ties, Lorimer said. The main event will match Webb, an East High graduate and veteran of "The Ultimate Fighter" reality series, against Chris Dempsey in a lightweight bout.

Fans at Sullivan Arena aren't likely to detect many changes. At the request of the UFC, events will start a half-hour earlier than in the past — 7 p.m. instead of 7:30 p.m. — and there will be only one intermission instead of two.

"They didn't ask for a ton of changes," Lorimer said.

AFC grabbed the attention of UFC president Dana White last year when he came to Anchorage last year to film a segment of "Looking for a Fight." The reality show covered White's quest for undiscovered talent around the country.

White's visit to Anchorage led to Anchorage fighter Terrence Mitchell landing a spot on this season's "The Ultimate Fighter" — and to AFC's deal with Fight Pass.

"He was impressed with our history — 12 years," Lorimer said. "It's hard for promotions to even stay in business for a year, so he gave us kudos for that. We've build an amazing fight scene up here."

The deal should benefit AFC financially, although Lorimer wouldn't say how much the UFC is paying for the rights to air the fights.

"It's not a significant amount of money," she said, "but it gives me an opportunity to sell sponsorships on a national level.

"There was a lot of interest after we announced the deal, and there's lots of interest now. The UFC is so expensive to advertise at, and they didn't put any restrictions on us — it's not like our guys all have to wear Reebok shirts."

Available for $95.88 for a year or $9.99 per month at ufc.tv, Fight Pass is geared for hard-core MMA fans.

Besides the AFC, it livestreams events from three other U.S. promotions — Titan FC of Florida, Victory of FC of Omaha, Nebraska, and Invicta, the world's biggest all-woman promotion. Anchorage fighter Lauren Murphy is a former Invicta champion.

It also streams coverage of several foreign promotions, and it shows select preliminary fights from the UFC's big pay-per-view events. And it has a growing on-demand library of fights, including the AFC's.

Just how many fans Fight Pass attracts isn't known. The UFC doesn't reveal viewership numbers for either Fight Pass or its pay-per-view mega-events like the upcoming UFC 205.

AFC 125

7 p.m., Sullivan Arena

Wednesday's fights

Chris Dempsey vs. Nic Herron Webb
Seth Kroll vs. Tyler Milner
Robert Rivera vs. Dillin Wiggins
Dalton Jester vs. Cody Rice
Caine Jamal vs. Hipa Fouvale
Josh Kelsey vs. Douglas McFresh
Jesse Kurtz vs. Joshua Gale
Brandon Pushruck vs. Patrik White
Christian Hudson vs. Andrew Garrett
Paul Brown vs. Isaiah Edwards

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