UFC expecting to land ‘much bigger’ TV deal at the tail end of ESPN era

Dana White was appointed as CEO after the merger of UFC and WWE under TKO Group Holdings Inc. He recently discussed the ongoing television negotiations with ESPN and various media partners.

In an exclusive interview with Kevin Iole, Dana White expressed his openness to exploring diverse avenues. He commended YouTube and Amazon Prime for their adaptability in the streaming domain, emphasizing their acquisition of NFL game rights within the United States.

White said: “You can look at some of the things Amazon’s done and think whatever [about them], but it’s all about when rights become available. That’s when you’re going to see people making big moves. Who’s going to be first to be the big, dominant player out there [in streaming sports]?”

“I actually have been saying for a long time that I’m blown away that Netflix didn’t get into sports sooner. What YouTube did [securing the rights to the NFL Sunday Ticket] was brilliant.”

Reflecting on the UFC’s journey amidst the pandemic, White expressed satisfaction with the organization’s progress. He accredited its resurgence to the emerging generation of fans.

White further said: “Man, we were doing fights that should have done 350,000 [pay-per-view sales], and they wound up doing a million. There was nothing else on.”

“We witnessed events that were initially expected to achieve around 350,000 pay-per-view sales, yet astonishingly surpassed a million,” shared Dana White. “There was a scarcity of alternative entertainment options during that period.”

White advocates for the UFC’s expansion into new territories and a return to pre-COVID event frequencies. But White also wants to ensure convenient access to the sport for consumers, whether through live events or television broadcasts.

White said: “As technology continues to get better, the UFC continues to get bigger. We can reach more people. Back in the day, when I did this, the original deal, I’d have to go out and cut a million deals all over the world for distribution.”

“Some would be on at different times and this and that. Now, with streaming, it’s pretty much [the] same time, same channel everywhere all over the world. Maybe there are three different ones, but this is the closest we’ve ever been to one stream.”

On January 13, the UFC will host a Fight Night event at the UFC APEX. It will feature a light heavyweight rematch between Magomed Ankalaev and Johnny Walker as the main event.