The UFC has come a long way from being dubbed as ‘human cockfighting’ to landing a spot on national television.
Under the guidance of president Dana White and various owners since adopting new rules and gaining mainstream acceptance, the UFC has gone from struggling to get their shows on pay-per-view to enjoying primetime slots on FOX alongside other prominent sports.
The world’s leading MMA promotion is now in the midst of contract negotiations, the result of which could have a major impact on their success in the coming years.
The promotion originally gained popularity through a TV deal with Spike. Targeted at males between the age of roughly 18-40, the UFC became a hit among all genders, age groups, and nations of the world. The Ultimate Fighter reality show was one of the first programs to help the public come to know fighters and understand their mindsets for competing in MMA.
TUF produced many now-iconic talents such as Rashad Evans, Michael Bisping, Forest Griffin, and more. All three of these TUF winners went on to capture championship gold.
The UFC came under new ownership when Zuffa sold the company to WME-IMG. Shortly before this, the UFC had also secured a TV deal with FOX. This seven-year deal will expire on December 31, 2018, and the promotion is already looking to have a new deal inked soon.
Management is approaching it optimistically, hoping to hammer out the deal before the end of this year. At the latest, they hope to have something set up by early next year.
While the UFC doesn’t depend solely on TV revenues, their other main source of income is somewhat unpredictable. The pay-per-view model has been losing steam in recent years, and not just for the UFC. Many organizations and industries are experimenting with other deals that could net them better results for the future.
WWE, the world’s leading sports-entertainment company, even adopted their own network as a means of moving toward a more stable viewing platform for their shows. Dana White has spoken about a similar system in the past, and the promotion appears to be leaving their options open as they look for new options in the future.
In spite of PPV uncertainties and some controversies regarding fighter pay, the UFC has continued to increase its success over the past several years. Their deal with FOX has undoubtedly helped them, as it has provided them with greater exposure and helped bring in fans from other sports who may have otherwise never given the sport of MMA a chance.
Television networks have also been weary of the future, as DVRs and other options make it uncertain whether viewers will watch advertisements. This causes networks to keep a closer eye on their costs. The UFC will receive $160 million next year from FOX, and is currently seeking over $400 million for TV rights.
White recently stated that this year was the UFC’s best ever, citing high financial gains due in large part to many prominent returns and super fights.