UFC is coming to ESPN — or at least to ESPN+.
On Tuesday, ESPN announced it had agreed to a streaming deal with the mixed martial arts company that will provide for 15 UFC events streaming exclusively on ESPN+. The rights agreement is the first ever between ESPN and UFC.
According to Sports Business Journal’s John Ourand, ESPN has committed to paying $150 million a year over five years. The deal means that Amazon, which sells UFC pay-per-view fights, will not be able to stream non-PPV UFC events. ESPN’s UFC events will be branded as “UFC on ESPN+ Fight Night,” the network announced.
“UFC is a premier global sports property with legions of incredibly avid fans,” ESPN president Jimmy Pitaro said in a statement. “We are excited to be able to bring their world-class events and content to ESPN+ and the ESPN networks. This agreement shows the commitment we have to delivering fans the very best across our entire platform.”
Added UFC president Dana White: “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. 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 it. This deal is a home run for ESPN and UFC.”
This deal marks one of ESPN’s biggest commitments yet to its recently launched ESPN+ streaming platform, which has promised thousands of live events, in addition to original content such as Kobe Bryant’s basketball analysis show Detail and a complete library of 30 for 30 documentaries. ESPN+ costs $4.99 per month after a seven-day free trial.
Although ESPN has secured digital rights to UFC, broadcast rights remain up for grabs, with Fox (the current rightsholder) and NBC reportedly interested. A report last month suggested Fox could team up with ESPN to split those rights, although it’s unclear how Tuesday’s news affects that calculus.