When the UFC announced earlier this month that they had reached an agreement to stream events live on the newly-created ESPN+ network, many wondered if that was just the start of a relationship.
On Wednesday, those rumors were proven true, as the two sides reached an agreement on a new deal.
Starting in January 2019, all things related to the UFC will air on some form of ESPN, including 42 live events. Of those, 30 will be full 12-fight cards that air on an ESPN linear network.
The deal replaces the current one between the UFC and FOX, which is set to expire. We now will have “UFC on ESPN Fight Night” and “UFC on ESPN+ Fight Night” events to go with live prelims on ESPN leading into pay-per-view cards.
“Every year for the last 18 years, we have taken this sport and brand to another level,” UFC president Dana White said in a press release by ESPN. “We find innovative ways to promote our athletes and build stars. Today is another monumental day for UFC, our athletes, and our fans. We are now part of the ESPN family, recognized around the world as the pinnacle in sports broadcasting. I am very excited for this next chapter for UFC.” With more than 280 million fans around the world, UFC boasts the youngest fan base among major professional sports organizations in the US with a median age of 40 and an audience comprising 40% millennials.”
When the UFC landed on FOX, many felt it was a win-win for the promotion and the network. Despite some rough patches, the results have been good. Now, though, the biggest MMA promotion in the world is working hand-in-and with the biggest sports media network in the world.
Details of the agreement include 20 UFC on ESPN+ Fight Night cards to air on ESPN+, 10 UFC on ESPN Fight Night events that will include prelims on ESPN+ and 12 UFC PPV Preliminary Fight cards to air on ESPN Networks.
White’s “Contender Series” will be added to ESPN+ next June, along with a new and all-access series produced by IMG Original Content. Pre- and post-fight shows for the “Fight Night” events will air on ESPN and ESPN+ with more archives headed that way.
Jimmy Pitaro, ESPN President and Co-Chairman, Disney Media Networks said, “ESPN’s unparalleled multimedia platform is the perfect home for the UFC and will deliver tremendous value to both parties. UFC fans are passionate and loyal and we plan to bring the full power of ESPN’s live coverage, powerful storytelling and unmatched distribution to serve them in an unprecedented fashion. We can’t wait to get started.”