UFC president Dana White revealed how an ESPN scandal led to UFC signing a life altering deal

UFC president Dana White just made some interesting revelations that explain how UFC landed a lucrative ESPN deal.

White believes that UFC only landed at ESPN thanks to the fact that former president John Skipper was engulfed in a scandal.

“You ever hear of John Skipper? John Skipper ran ESPN. Now, I think he runs DAZN. Runs ESPN, beloved , looks like the squarest dude on the planet. Older guy. Hates UFC. Hates it. Hates UFC. Big soccer guy.” – White  told Grant Cardone.

“For whatever reason, people like different things. So, our FOX deal is up and we’re probably not gonna do another deal with FOX. They’re selling off cable networks and restructuring.“
“So they’re not the same company when we signed with them. And John Skipper’s never, ever gonna take the UFC. So, we’re in a real tough place.”

White explained that Skipper was not a big fan of the UFC. UFC was looking to land a deal worth around $450 million prior to the scandal.

White explained that Skipper was forced to resign in the fall out of the extortion attempt linked to his coke use.

After Skipper left the organization, UFC signed a five-year contract with his successor Jimmy Pitaro worth reported a whopping $ 1.5 billion.

Their luck would turn with Skipper suddenly resigning following an interview with The Hollywood reporter where he revealed coke issues led to his resignation.

Skipper was also allegedly getting blackmailed by his dealer.

This was a fortunate turn of events for UFC who had a pre-existing relationship with the new president – Jimmy Pitaro. Pitaro was the former editor of Yahoo! Sports. Pitaro was also a friend of White’s and a UFC fan.

‘Who do they make president? Jimmy Pitaro, who ran Yahoo! Sports for years. I’ve known him a long time. He’s a great dude, and he loves the UFC.”

“Now you got him, you got a guy named Kevin Mayer, who is really close to [Endeavor CEO] Ari [Emanuel], and we ended up doing the ESPN deal when our deal was up. So you want to talk about timing!’. As it turns out luck was on the UFC’s side.”

Skipper later joined DAZN in 2018 and launched Meadowlark later in 2021. UFC’s ESPN deal was made in 2019 and is expected to last through 2024. ESPN just hiked the prices of UFC PPV cards for the fourth consecutive year in a row.

In a statement, ESPN’s parent company Disney told the Sports Business Journal on Wednesday that the latest price hike “reflects the value of ESPN+ and the popularity and quality of UFC events.”