Following the major success of THQ's UFC 2009 game, EA Sports head Peter Moore says his newly-announced EA Sports MMA title will sign fighters with image rights available.
The rise of mixed martial arts as a sport over the last few years has been significant, and Moore's announcement of EA Sports MMA at this year's E3 means the sport will join titles like Madden, Tiger Woods and FIFA on the EA Sports label.
However, UFC owners Zuffa also control MMA leagues like the WEC and the now defunct Pride, as well as a large majority of famous fighters -- leaving it unclear which MMA stars would be able to sign for Electronic Arts' title.
Is it possible to bring UFC titles into the EA game, since the license is elsewhere? Gamasutra asked Moore, as part of an in-depth new interview about the state of EA Sports.
Moore commented: "We are looking obviously at every fighter that we can, that we feel is applicable from a quality level and then analyzing their image rights, and if they're available and we want them -- then we'll get them. If they're not then we'll move on to the next fighter."
The mention of image rights is notable because of a controversy with THQ's UFC game late last year, in which UFC fighter Jon Fitch allegedly refused to sign a lifetime contract for his likeness to be used by THQ in its games -- and was removed from the UFC. (He later recanted and continued to fight in the league.)
When asked about fighters such as UFC star Lyoto Machida, Moore added: "Machida? A great fighter. There's plenty of great fighters that have their image rights, and we'll start announcing fighters pretty soon."
Although no official announcements of fighters for EA Sports MMA have been made, several leaks have indicated that top fighters not locked into the UFC are indeed stepping up and signing for Electronic Arts' title, which is due out in 2010 and developed by EA Tiburon.
A tour schedule around E3 indicated that notable Russian fighter Fedor Emelianenko was taking place in a photoshoot for the EA title, alongside colleague Gegard Mousasi.
In addition, famous ex-UFC heavyweight champion Tim Sylvia recently said in a radio interview that both he and notable former UFC star Randy Couture have signed up for the Electronic Arts game. None of these signings have yet been confirmed by Electronic Arts.