ESPN and Fox Sports line up joint bid for UFC rights

Sports broadcasters ESPN and Fox Sports have submitted a joint bid for the US rights to mixed martial arts promotion the Ultimate Fighting Championship, according to multiple reports.

The Variety website said the two companies have proposed to split the rights package in a move that would take as many as 15 events to new subscription streaming service ESPN+.

Citing sources with knowledge of the proposal, Variety said ESPN has indicated it would be willing to pay between $120m (€96.5m) and $180m per year for UFC rights.

Fox, which currently pays $120m per year as the UFC’s existing rights-holder, would reportedly be willing to raise its rights fee to over $200m per year. Variety added that a joint bid with ESPN would see Fox’s total number of events reduce slightly.

The UFC took its US broadcast rights to the open market in October after an exclusive negotiating period expired with Fox Sports. The promotion is currently engaged in a seven-year deal with Fox which runs from 2012 to 2018.

The Wrap website said that the UFC is still holding talks with other potential rights partners. An ESPN spokesperson said Variety’s story was “erroneous,” but would not elaborate on which aspects.