Sports fans in Los Angeles have a new cable channel to watch. Universal Sports debuted last week in Los Angeles on Time Warner Cable Channel 226.

Los Angeles-based World Championship Sports Network formed a partnership with NBC Universal and relaunched its television station with the new name.

"The key to the partnership is NBC Universal's ability to enhance our distribution," said Claude Ruibal, president of World Championship Sports Network.

The partnership got the company its spot on basic cable in both Los Angeles and New York. Its digital TV channel now has distribution in 13 million homes, compared with just 2 million homes before the partnership was announced. Ruibal expects NBC Universal to help the channel continue gaining viewers and hopes to be in 90 million households by the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver.

The network will also have access to NBC Universal Olympic programming. Universal Sports will be able to replay all 5,000 hours of competition from the upcoming 2008 Beijing Olympics or cut the footage into highlight clips.

The company must now focus on getting a return on its investments.

"Our biggest challenge was getting people to see the television network," Ruibal said. "Now, we have to monetize it."

Many advertisers team up with Olympic sport governing bodies and Olympic athletes as official sponsors. With the network's wider distribution, advertisers who have looked at purchasing spots on the network will be more favorably inclined to invest their budgets.

Ruibal hopes this will build relationships. "Companies want to market their sponsorships beyond the Olympics and we are committed to sports year-round," he said.

Foreign Fighters

Two major tournaments in the world of mixed martial arts are coming to Southern California this month, and that means L.A. attorney Richard Wilner is in a frenzy of activity. Many of the fighters come from abroad, and Wilner has to get them their visas.

As mixed martial-arts sports grow in popularity, the plethora of leagues are constantly looking for new and better talent. The search routinely produces athletes from Brazil, Thailand, Russia and many other countries across the globe. Nearly every event has at least one foreign fighter competing.

Getting those athletes to Southern California is Wilner's specialty.

"I've helped arrange for 50-60 visas over the past year," said Wilner, a partner at Cerritos-based Wilner & O'Reilly APLC.

The fighters need P-1 visas, which allow athletes to participate in a competition held in the United States.

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