There has been a lot of positive and negative feelings surrounding the UFC’s decision to return to running live events, starting with UFC 249 on April 18.
While it is highly unlikely at best that the UFC admits that financial matters played a huge role in returning to action during the coronavirus pandemic, it is exactly what appears to be the case according to a report from the Wall Street Journal.
The UFC contract with ESPN states that the promotion must run a total of 42 shows this year and they have hosted just eight as of now, meaning then need to run 34 more shows to meet the contracted quota. If the UFC meets the reported quota, it would earn a payout of $750 million according to the report from the Wall Street Journal.
“I’d be surprised if they can’t fulfill their contract,” media analyst Brandon Ross said. “Disney is paying UFC no matter what... all the UFC has to do is put the show on to get a minimum payment.”
Bloody Elbow’s business analyst John Nash breaks down how the UFC could get $750 million by running the 42 events in all.
“The current deal is thought to be $150 million for the year for ESPN, another $150 million for the year for ESPN+, and $200 million guaranteed by ESPN for PPVs, with an upside if an events sells well,” Nash said. “They also are thought to be getting around $100 million a year now for sponsors, over $100 million on international broadcast rights, and millions more on licensing fees. Almost all of that is contractually guaranteed.”
Nash also reports that the UFC would get $20 million alone from ESPN just for going through with the UFC 249 card.
UFC action will return in less than two weeks with UFC 249 and a plethora of planned events afterwards, but it seems like the financial risk may mean more to the promotion than the health risk to the fighters, personnel and others working those cards in any capacity.