Saturday night’s UFC Fight Night on ESPN+ debut, featuring 13 fights live from Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, saw Henry Cejudo successfully defend his flyweight championship against bantamweight champion TJ Dillashaw in a stunning 32-second finish, and led to a record-setting night with 568,000 new subscribers for ESPN+ on Friday and Saturday combined – over 525,000 Saturday alone. It marks the largest event and subscription catalyst for ESPN+ thus far.
The UFC Fight Night on ESPN+ Prelims card aired on ESPN (English) and ESPN Deportes (Spanish) from 8:15 -10 p.m. ET. The telecast averaged a 1.4 metered market rating, making it the highest-rated UFC Fight Night Prelims on cable since at least 2013.
ESPN+, the premium multi-sport, direct-to-consumer video service from The Walt Disney Company’s Direct-to-Consumer and International (DTCI) segment and ESPN, launched in April and surpassed one million paying subscribers in just five months. It offers fans thousands of live events, on-demand content and original programming not available on ESPN’s linear TV or digital networks, along with premium editorial content.
“Our first UFC Fight Night on ESPN+ was a thrilling evening of action and a great success, with a record-setting night that continued the momentum for ESPN+, delivered strong ratings on ESPN and marks a great start to our new agreement with the UFC,” said Kevin Mayer, Chairman, Direct-To-Consumer and International, The Walt Disney Company. “It was a milestone evening, with the success driven by outstanding joint efforts from the teams at DTCI and ESPN.”
On Saturday, there were also more than 1.8 million unique visitors to MMA-related digital content across ESPN digital platforms (ESPN App, ESPN.com, etc.), which was the most-trafficked Saturday for MMA content on record.
ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro said, “All day, and across all ESPN platforms, we collectively demonstrated the promise of what we can do to fulfill our mission of serving a wider array of sports fans.”
On the Prelims portion of the card broadcast on ESPN and ESPN Deportes, Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone thrilled the crowd with a second-round TKO of Alex Hernandez. After his win, Cerrone immediately challenged Conor McGregor. “I want Conor, if he’ll agree to it. I’m coming for a belt. Cowboy is back.” McGregor, the former UFC featherweight and lightweight champion, quickly responded on Twitter, accepting the challenge: “For a fight like that Donald, I’ll fight you. Congratulations.”
This was the first fight card of the five-year media deal between UFC, The Walt Disney Company’s Direct-To-Consumer & International segment and ESPN, announced last year. ESPN+ will offer 20 exclusive UFC Fight Night on ESPN+ events per year and all preliminary fights for UFC on ESPN Fight Night programs. ESPN linear networks will broadcast 10 exclusive UFC on ESPN Fight Night events per year as well as Prelim fights for UFC pay-per-view events.