Earlier this week, Fox pinned down the television rights to air WWE’s SmackDown Live. And now, ESPN has officially responded by putting the UFC in a chokehold.
On Wednesday, ESPN announced that it has agreed to a new five-year, $1.5 billion dealwith the UFC to deliver the company’s entire rights package via the Worldwide Leader in Sports, beginning in 2019.
The mega deal will have ESPN broadcasting 30 UFC Fight Night events per year, with 10 main cards slated to air on ESPN’s TV networks and the other 20 to be streamed on ESPN+, according to ESPN. (ESPN+ is the company’s recently-launched standalone streaming service).
Also as part of the deal, ESPN will air preliminary bouts prior to UFC pay-per-view events.
Dana White, the UFC president, believes the company’s product being broadcasted on the Worldwide Leader in Sports will only help MMA to further flourish.
“I couldn’t be more excited to partner with The Walt Disney Company and ESPN on an agreement that will continue to grow our sport,” White said, as reported by ESPN, when the deal was first reported earlier this month. “UFC has always done deals with the right partners at the right time and this one is no exception. We will now have the ability to deliver fights to our young fan base wherever they are and whenever they want. This deal is a home run for ESPN and UFC.”
The terms of the agreement come after ESPN originally reported the deal earlier this monthand two days after it was reported that Fox will be paying $1 billion over five years to air WWE’s SmackDown Live, which it will air on Friday nights beginning in October 2019.
According to ESPN, Fox Sports has been the UFC’s exclusive TV rights partner since 2011 and intended to retain the MMA giant until NBC declined its match option for WWE’s SmackDown Live. That latter move paved the way for Fox to swoop in and secure the rights for SmackDown Live, choosing pro wrestling and sports entertainment over mixed martial arts.
On paper, we can see each deal working out for ESPN and Fox.