UFC president Dana White is never going to be a fan of boxing promoter Bob Arum but they might just be teaming up for a common goal.
The UFC just recently signed a five year, $1.5 billion deal to bring their broadcast rights exclusively to ESPN. The Disney owned sports network also happens to be the home to Arum’s Top Rank boxing where fighters like Vasyl Lomachenko have headlined cards on ESPN over the past year.
White has spoken often about his disdain for Arum but it seems like ESPN plans to piggyback their new UFC-Top Rank combination to pack a serious punch with combat sports fans on some Saturday nights.
“I could easily see that,” ESPN executive vice president of scheduling and programming Burke Magnus told the Big Lead when asked about the UFC teaming up with Top Rank. “What I’m fond of saying to people is if the genie came out of the bottle and granted me one wish it would be for 104 Saturday nights per year.
“I think there’s no doubt that we’ll look to pair the two. In both cases, because of the staging aspects to it, we could also use time zones to our advantage. Like we did this year with Top Rank coming out of an SEC football game on a Saturday night with a big lead-in, we can do that kind of scheduling as well thanks to the fact that these things can be scheduled accordingly.”
Top Rank has been pulling in solid ratings for ESPN after inking a contract to bring some of boxing’s biggest matches back to cable television rather than pay-per-view.
The hope is that the UFC will deliver similar results when the new five year deal kicks off in 2019.
Of course, the UFC will have 10 total shows broadcast on ESPN’s family of networks with the other 20 cards scheduled for ESPN+ — the $4.99 per month streaming service for the network.
UFC will also air pay-per-view prelims on ESPN’s family of networks as well.
UFC has actually gone head-to-head with Top Rank boxing on ESPN several times in recent months so it will be interesting to see how the network either pairs them together or schedules them in relation to one another once the new deal kicks in next year.