Partners look to build on exclusive rights in territory

The Mandt Bros., behind ESPN’s “Jim Rome Is Burning,” have paired up with Ranik Ultimate Fighting Federation to produce TV shows around mixed martial arts to grow the sport in China.

RUFF, based in Shanghai, holds the exclusive government-sanctioned rights to produce MMA fights in China.

Mandt will collaborate with RUFF on the creative development of the league and live events, leading all TV production, from one-off specials to a potential reality shows to air in China.

“This is a huge opportunity to help grow MMA in the most populous country in the world, where martial arts is already popular,” said Neil Mandt. “Mandt Bros. has strong expertise in sports and reality television, with deep relationships with networks, sponsors, athletes and others, and we are thrilled to team with RUFF to bring all of our creative and production skills to China.”

RUFF founders and entrepreneurs Joel Resnick and Saul Rajsky secured rights to produce MMA bouts in China in 2010, gaining permission from the General Administration of Sport of China Wushu Administrative Center, after spending four years negotiating with the Chinese government to bring the sport to the country.

The company’s first two events, in late 2011, were viewed by 20 million and 27 million, respectively. The third bout is slated to take place in Chongqing on March 24.

At least a half-dozen MMA events are planned this year to develop Chinese MMA fighters for local auds.

In the past, Resnick said, “nobody was willing to build the fighters, give them a personality, and make them fan favorites. It’s about showing ordinary kids that they can be the fighter, and you don’t have to be the biggest or strongest guy to win.”

Los Angeles-based Mandt Bros. is run by sibs Neil and Michael. In addition to “Jim Rome Is Burning,” the shingle has produced the pic “Last Stop for Paul” and TV series “Destination Truth,” for Syfy, “Ice Brigade,” for Food Network, Fuel TV’s “Strangers in Danger” and “The Car Show,” for Speed Network.

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