CBS to air cage fighting in primetime

CBS plans to bring mixed martial arts events, commonly known as cage fighting, to its primetime schedules in the spring.

The sport was heavily criticised in the 1990s when it allowed biting, head butting and eye gouging. Those are now banned but MMA still involves unrestrained kicking, punching and martial arts and wrestling moves.

Competitors fight on a mat in a cage with no protective equipment and the sport remains banned in several American states.

CBS yesterday said it would air four MMA events in the form of two hour-long specials on Saturday nights.

Kelly Kahl, an executive at the network, told Reuters it would be popular.

"It is a sport that has a very strong fan base and attracts a terrific audience," she said. "We're putting it on Saturday nights, a night that has been underserved by all the networks for quite some time. So it's low risk and a potentially large reward."

It will be the sport's first airing on terrestrial television though it currently broadcasts on premium cable outlet Showtime and pay per view.