Speaking on a recent episode of his Below The Belt Podcast, former UFC heavyweight Brendan Schaub discussed the UFC’s recent decision to make its pay-per-views available exclusively on ESPN+. Schaub feels that this is significantly and negatively influencing pay-per-view numbers, which is in turn hurting the fighters.
He points to the absences of huge UFC stars like Brock Lesnar and Conor McGregor as proof of this new reality, and went so far as to suggest the age of the UFC superstar is over.
“We heard Brock Lesnar turned down the deal,” Schaub said. “Conor… we haven’t heard anything from him. The UFC is content just being in cruise control because they have this reliable nut from ESPN. They’re set there, so they’re not willing to be bend over backwards to get a guy like Brock Lesnar anymore. They don’t need it. They don’t have to give Conor McGregor half the company to come back.
“Everyone wins, but the fighters are so f**ked because it’s such a limited viewership now,” he added. “So your sponsors are less — if you even had any. Your notoriety, your fame, your social media following, your YouTube channel to sell merch… The day and age of a superstar in the UFC is gone, gone. It’s so gone.”
Brendan Schaub continued, zeroing in on UFC President Dana White.
“Notice the direction of the marketing now on ESPN. Who do you see now? Dana White,” he said. “It’s very Vince McMahon… This is the face that you recognize. Because you won’t recognize the fighters, but you recognize Dana White. So his ego and his popularity goes up. That’s the face [of the company] now. That’s not good. All the promos are Dana. It’s all him. That’s insane, man.”
Schaub added that he does not believe the UFC cares nearly as much about curbing illegal streaming now that their pay-per-views have moved to ESPN+, which he worries weakens viewership even further.
Contrary to these comments from Brendan Schaub, Dana believes streaming is the future of the sport, and that this partnership with ESPN is very beneficial. He believes the partnership is creating more engaging content for fans and creating better exposure for fighters.
He recently discussed this topic in depth during a 20-minute interview with Megan Olivi.
What do you think of these differing takes from Brendan Schaub and Dana White?
This article first appeared on BJPENN.COM on 5/14/2019.