MMA fans have long had to evolve how they watch their favorite promotions with the recent push by both UFC and Bellator MMA into streaming deals with ESPN+ and DAZN, respectively.
That continued change took another step Monday afternoon as the world's largest fight promotion announced a deal with ESPN that will see UFC's pay-per-view era with traditional cable providers come to a close.
Starting with April's UFC 236 through 2025, fans in the U.S. looking to buy one of the company's 12 yearly PPVs will have one option to do so: ESPN+, the "exclusive distributor of UFC PPV events" and the "single point of purchase for customers" as outlined in a press release.
The cost per show is also decreasing from $64.99 to $59.99 per event, but you must be an ESPN+ subscriber ($4.99/mo) in order to be able to buy PPVs. The two sides are experimenting with bundling, offering a $79.99 ESPN+ yearly subscription and PPV event combo for new subscribers.
In the release, UFC retains the rights for their bar and restaurant business, but the era of being able to buy through cable providers like Comcast, DirecTV, Spectrum, or others is over effective immediately. In his press release quote, UFC president Dana White mentioned the company's "young fan base" -- a nod toward one of the reasons the decision was made.
The revenue split between ESPN and UFC wasn't announced, but cable companies historically got half of the PPV take for distribution, and one would think that model would be different with this move.
Along with the news, UFC and ESPN announced a two-year extension of their TV rights deal through 2025 less than three months after their five-year deal kicked off.