The UFC-ESPN era officially kicked off at the beginning of 2019. And just recently, they extended their partnership by two years and moved the UFC pay-per-view events exclusively to the ESPN streaming service, ESPN+.
Simply put, that means that starting wit UFC 236 next Saturday night, all UFC pay-per-view events will only be watchable if you purchase a $4.99 monthly subscription to ESPN+. That is unless you want to go to your local sports bar to watch the event.
This is obviously a huge change for the UFC business model and one that has gotten mixed reactions. Former UFC heavyweight, Brendan Schaub recently shared his take on what it means for the future of the sport and the UFC.
According to Schaub following a conversation he had with MMA Fighting’s Luke Thomas, the UFC is now guaranteed a certain payout from ESPN for their pay-per-views that equals out to 500,000 buys per event. Which is above their yearly averages going back to 2016.
- Average 2018 PPV buyrate: 447,307
- Average 2017 PPV buyrate: 339,583
- Average 2016 PPV buyrate: 655,230 (three Conor McGregor cards, one Ronda Rousey card, and UFC 200)
“The power has left the fighters, all the fighters,” Schaub said on his Below the Belt podcast. “Because now that they have this guaranteed nut, they’re covered, they’re balling,
“We don’t have to push anyone. Now, if I’m a fighter, if I’m [Israel] ‘Stylebender’ [Adesanya], let’s say Kevin Gastelum were to win, if I’m Jon Jones, if I’m Amanda Nunes, Holly Holm when they fight, if I’m fricking, you know, any of these champions, Max Holloway, any of these guys, and I’m a big name in the sport, I’m hiring my own publicist now. You got to tell your own story because now that the UFC is in cruise control, you’re crazy if you think it. They’re not building stars anymore. That’s not happening. Internationally, they’re going to put the resources there. Here… They’re set. You will never ever see someone as famous as Conor McGregor ever in the UFC again. It was the perfect storm in order for that to happen, they sold the company at $4 billion because of him and Rhonda and brought in these huge names and that was the model.
“And that worked back then,” Schaub continued. “But now that they’re sitting pretty, they have this guaranteed money. They don’t have to make stars. You’re just going to get fights now. Good fights, great fights. That’s all you’re going to get. So if you’re sick of the entertainment era, it’s officially over. That ESPN deal to me went, ‘oh, it was fun. And like all that sh*t talking and stuff like that. It was fun. It’s over,’ The entertainment era is officially over.”
In the end, Schaub believes that it still is and always has been about what’s best for business rather than the athletes. The big difference now is that star power won’t matter as much.
“It’s always been what’s best for the UFC, never the fighters,” Schaub said. “And with this, it’s never been
What are your thoughts on the UFC-ESPN deal as 2019 continues on?
This article first appeared on BJPenn.com on 4/2/2019