Last month, the UFC announced some groundbreaking news: They were extending and expanding their distribution deal with ESPN, including making all of their Pay-Per-Views exclusive to the ESPN+ platform. Saturday night marks the beginning of a new era, as UFC 236 will be the first UFC PPV available exclusively through a digital platform. It’s a huge shift in the way the UFC does business, but it’s one that some fighters are pretty excited about.
Speaking with MMA Fighting at UFC 236 media day, welterweight contender Alan Jouban gave his thoughts on the new distribution deal, saying that the landmark move from the UFC is sure to bring good things for the fighters.
“I hope we rock and roll with it,” Jouban said. “If it’s a good thing for the sport, I’m happy with it. The UFC knows what they’re doing and if they made a deal that is financially a smart one by going with Pay-Per-View through ESPN, then I assume they know what they’re doing. That’s gonna bring more revenue, more money to the UFC and then hopefully we get a kickback on that, somehow.”
Whether that does happen and how this affect the fighters remains to be seen. The UFC has done a number of major deals in recent years - exclusive sponsorships, a $4 billion acquisition by WME-IMG, moving to ESPN - but the benefit to fighters has been hard to gauge. Some fighters have liked the changes while others have even left the UFC over them. But Jouban reasons that overall, these deals have made things much better for all the fighters than they used to be.
“We’re seeing it, I’ve already seen it,” Jouban said. “I’ve been out for 14 months and I see a difference being here at this fight. The UFC Performance Institute has provided meal plans for all the fighters. They have a doctor here to give massages and things like that. These are things that we didn’t have a year ago. So I’m already seeing small little things that help the fighters get here healthy and make weight on time and healthy as well.
Hopefully Jouban is right, because the UFC should have a substantial increase in their guaranteed revenue on the way. With the new distribution deal, ESPN pays the UFC an up front “license fee” to sell the PPV cards and then will split the revenue from the PPV as well. Previously, the UFC was operating with a 50/50 split of the revenue but the rumors are that ESPN will be paying a guaranteed amount per card instead. If true, it’s unclear how this change will affect fighters who earn PPV points, but the UFC will have a lot more revenue to reinvest in fighter benefit programs like the UFC Performance Institute, and that’s enough for Jouban.
“Those little increments, those little things, if the UFC is making more money and they’re giving small things like that back to us, I’m happy with it.”
Jouban fights Dwight Grant on the main card at UFC 236 this weekend.