Top Rank's recent deal with ESPN will bring world title fights to the network and Bob Arum credits the UFC's deal with Fox for showing him that the future of the sport lies in free television.
Arum talked with the Las Vegas Review Journal and said the UFC's television deal with Fox, which allows them to regularly show UFC cards and pay-per-view on FOX and Fox Sports, was a big reason the MMA promotion has grown tremendously.
“The UFC showed us that you need free television to advertise your product to people to become familiar with,” Arum said. “Their deal with Fox helped make UFC the product it became, while we in boxing were limiting ourselves to premium networks.”
Top Rank has been slowly distancing itself from HBO for a while now, with the promotion running two pay-per-views on its own since last November, the first of which was Manny Pacquiao's return to the ring, where he defeated Jessie Vargas to win the WBO welterweight titles.
Arum said HBO and Showtime, while instrumental in broadcasting many big boxing fights, are not the right places to showcase boxing's best because they are premium channels and are not solely focused on sports, like ESPN.
“I always believed that once we could get our best product on a network like ESPN, with the way ESPN promotes its shows like college football, professional football, that we would do [tremendous] ratings,” Arum said. "Like, nothing against HBO and Showtime, but they are premium channels that mostly do entertainment and a little bit of sports and boxing. They are not sports stations, and therefore they do not have the opportunity to promote a product like a boxing match or like a football game. No one covers sports better than ESPN.”
The deal allowed ESPN to broadcast Jeff Horn's upset win over Pacquiao earlier in July, which has garnered record viewership for a fight on cable television and will give the network broadcasting rights to Vasyl Lomachenko's next WBO super featherweight title defense and the welterweight unification fight between Terence Crawford and Julius Indongo. Both of those fights will be on ESPN in August.