With the UFC’s current UK television deal with ESPN UK set to end in August there’s been strong speculation that the promotion are set to back their bags and move to pastures new, but new comments from the broadcaster suggest that they are still keen to strike a new deal for the future.
“ESPN continues to be a strong TV partner to UFC, and our channel in the UK continues to grow in reach and ratings. We are reaching millions of UK fans every month, with 10 consecutive months of overall ratings growth, and consistent growth in subscribers.
We have spent significant resources in marketing and promotion of the UFC as a part of our range of top-quality sport, and hope to continue to do so beyond the current contract if a deal can be reached that makes sense for both sides.” – ESPN UK speaking to FightersOnly earlier today.
Up until this point a renewal with ESPN UK had seemed highly unlikely with UFC President Dana White having been quick to point out his unhappiness with ESPN in the U.S in terms of it’s coverage of the sport, while UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta went as far as to tell a fan during a recent Q&A that he was “not happy with ESPN.”
Both White and Fertitta have also suggested that they need a strong television deal in the UK in order for the sport to flourish there – indicating that their current situation is not meeting their expectations.
These, along with comments last year from White that they would be looking to align themselves with other FOX entities around the globe after securing a 7 year deal with them in the U.S, lead us to believe that a new deal was likely to be struck with channels affiliated with them such as Sky Sports or FX UK.
However, according to FightersOnly the “situation has changed” and it’s not out of the question that ESPN UK could still be the home of the UFC beyond this summer.
Meanwhile, according to The Telegraph’s Gareth A Davies, White stated on Wednesday that, “Lorenzo has had a [significant] meeting in New York.. Hang on in there…we’re not going away,” though he also acknowledged, “The UK is a tough place to navigate in tv terms.”
So it appears that there are a few twists and turns still to come, and for the time being ESPN UK continues to be in the hunt for the rights to air the UFC along with Sky Sports, FX UK and a Channel 5 offshoot (either 5* or 5USA).