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ESPN+ to the fore as UFC strikes ‘groundbreaking’ rights deal

Mixed martial arts promotion the Ultimate Fighting Championship has today (Tuesday) signed a “groundbreaking” US rights deal with ESPN that will focus on the sports broadcaster’s new subscription streaming service ESPN+.

The multi-year deal will take hold from January and grants exclusive live UFC content for ESPN+, as well as across a variety of ESPN’s television, social and digital platforms, in English and Spanish.

This first-ever rights and distribution agreement between the two companies provides for 15 live UFC events to stream exclusively on ESPN+. Each event will be branded ‘UFC on ESPN+ Fight Night’ and will deliver a full card of 12 UFC bouts.

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

Dana White, UFC president, said: “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.”

In addition to live, exclusive events, the lineup of UFC content available to ESPN+ subscribers will include exclusive, all-new seasons of Dana White’s Contender Series; a new original, all-access series produced by IMG Original Content and exclusive pre- and post-event shows for all 15 UFC on ESPN+ Fight Nights.

Non-exclusive access to UFC’s full archive of programming will also be provided, including historic events, classic bouts, and original programming. Additional UFC-branded content, including UFC Countdown shows, press conferences, weigh-ins, and pre-and post-shows is included in the deal.

In addition to the live events and content included in the ESPN+ subscription, fans will be able to purchase and watch UFC’s DTC streaming offering Fight Pass and UFC pay-per-view events via ESPN+, for a separate cost. 

ESPN will also bring fans a variety of UFC content across ESPN’s linear and digital platforms, including an exclusive, 30-minute special on ESPN’s linear networks previewing upcoming bouts and breaking down match ups leading up to each UFC PPV; hundreds of hours of UFC library programming on linear networks; and re-airs of current UFC PPV events.