The Billion Dollar deals in MMA
THE ESPN DEAL
In 2019, ESPN struck a deal with UFC television for a five-year, $150 million a year deal, as well as a separate digital rights deal to carry 15 UFC fights per year on its new ESPN Plus streaming service. Altogether, it was a $300 million annual deal for linear and digital UFC rights to carry 42 live events per year. ESPN will pay $300 million annually for linear and digital UFC rights and carry 42 live events per year. ESPN Plus will air 20 cards, and ESPN’s television platforms will have ten cards and 12 prelims.
THE DEAL WITH PFL
Earlier this year, Professional Fighters League (PFL) announced that they had extended their deal with ESPN. According to a press release, seven 2022 regular-season events and the entire playoffs are expected to air on ESPN and be simulcast on the ESPN+ streaming service. Additional coverage will air on ESPN2.
“After two successful years of providing fans with premium MMA content alongside ESPN, PFL is proud to extend and expand our agreement,” PFL CEO Peter Murray said in a press release. “As MMA continues to evolve as a sport and rights property, our differentiated product and unique approach will help shape its path forward and in 2022 fans can expect more events, matchups between the world’s best fighters and innovative content than ever before.”
“As the home of combat sports, ESPN looks forward to continuing to deliver exciting, live PFL events and powerful storytelling to fans, across all platforms,” ESPN Vice President of Programming and Acquisitions Matt Kenny said.
ESPN first began airing PFL programming in February 2019. Previously, the league had a broadcast partnership with NBC Sports.
THE REEBOK DEAL
The collaboration with Reebok began in 2014 when the UFC signed a six-year deal with the sporting goods giant worth $70 million. Under the Promotional Guidelines Compliance set down in 2015, Reebok paid out a total of $39,346,500 to the fighters over the last six years.
Here’s a year-by-year breakdown of UFC-Reebok payouts:
2021 (January to March): $1,923,500
2020 total: $6,543,500
2019 total: $7,370,500
2018 total: $6,901,000
2017 total: $6,295,000
2016 total: $7,138,000
2015 total: $3,185,000
Under the contract, fighters were paid a certain amount for every event they competed in as per their experience and royalties for the sale of their official UFC merchandise.
UFC AND VENOM
In April 2021, the UFC parted ways with Reebok after six years of partnership. Instead, the company turned to Venum, a global MMA gear powerhouse that’ll serve as the official apparel sponsor and manufacturer for the promotion, the same as Reebok had been in those six years.
With the Venum deal, champions will see a bump from $40 000 fighter incentive pay to $42 000. Challengers will also get a $2000 raise (from $30 000 to $32 000), while fighters with over 20 UFC fights will receive $21 000 instead of $20 000.