True or false: The UFC should ditch ESPN for Netflix

Now that Netflix is getting into the boxing game, should the UFC follow suit?
In this photo illustration, a Netflix logo seen displayed on...
In this photo illustration, a Netflix logo seen displayed on... / SOPA Images/GettyImages

Since Netflix opened up on its interest in the live sports market, many have wondered aloud if the UFC would maximize its success by becoming the first major sports organization to join the largest streaming platform.

As it currently stands, the UFC has an exclusive deal with ESPN with a contract initially signed in 2018 reportedly worth over $1.5 billion. However, Dana White has been open in recent months on the deal's upcoming expiration date with the partnership expected to end in 2025. White has noted that he expects the promotion to negotiate a new deal with ESPN but is not opposed to entertaining other offers.

It is hard to imagine a bigger deal being offered than $1.5 billion over five years but if there is a streaming platform able to do so it would be Netflix. According to Stock Analysis, the company reeled in a total of over $33 billion in just 2023 alone.

Whether the company decides to open its pockets to acquire the UFC or not, Netflix's desire to enter the live sports market has been no secret. Increasing its attempt to do so in recent years, Netflix has already dipped into the combat sports world as the home for Jake Paul's next fight with Mike Tyson on July 20.

Should the UFC leave ESPN for Netflix?

Official Verdict: False

With the way the current deal is structured, the UFC is essentially printing money. If ESPN, the worldwide leader in sports, decides to restructure a deal worth anything close to another $1.5 billion there is no reason the UFC should go anywhere.

The entire UFC business essentially involves four annual components: 12 pay-per-view events, roughly 30 Fight Night cards, Dana White's Contender Series and The Ultimate Fighter. Though season 31 of The Ultimate Fighter aired on ESPN due to Conor McGregor's involvement, the majority of the UFC content is streamed on ESPN+. If the UFC went on Netflix, nothing much would change in that department and White has stated his desire to get both of the television series on a national network.

There is no doubt that Netflix is the largest streaming platform available. Its annual subscribers trumps ESPN+ by a significant margin but from a pure sports perspective there is nothing better than being on ESPN.

Streaming is the future and a Netflix deal would be convenient for most MMA fans but the appeal of national TV is still the pinnacle of sports as the most popular and profitable organizations in the world still air on traditional cable networks. Additionally, for as long as the UFC uses a pay-per-view format, the buys will largely remain the same with the same target audience purchasing the card regardless of where it is available.

In the MMA market, White and the UFC have already won the game with the original ESPN signing. If it ain't broke, don't fix it, and unless Netflix is willing to put down its biggest investment to date there is no reason to leave a perfect situation.


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