ATLANTA — If you closed your eyes and listened to UFC president Dana White speak about Saturday’s debut on ESPN+ as the exclusive provider of UFC pay-per-view events, you’d almost think you were listening to a sound clip from about a decade ago.
Back then, White was pitching the idea of the up-and-coming UFC as a mainstream sport, something that sounded farfetched even as the company grew by leaps and bounds.
But White had that old evangelical zeal in his voice as he spoke of the company’s relationship with ESPN, a seven-year deal which started out as a five-year deal just a few months back and has already been extended for two more years.
Saturday’s UFC 236 at State Farm Arena marks the start of the ESPN PPV era.
“I’m telling you, all the things we’ve accomplished in the last 20 years, wait until you see what we do in the next two or three,” an enthusiastic White told reporters, including MMA Junkie, following today’s UFC 236 ceremonial weigh-ins.
The UFC’s pay-per-view deal with ESPN, which makes the juggernaut sports broadcaster the exclusive home of the company’s signature PPV events, has caused some consternation among fans. After all, many fans are long since accustomed to the ease of ordering directly from their cable provider, and the new deal requires a subscription to ESPN+ in order to access the events.
But White chalks it up to a normal human hesitance to embrace change.
“If you’re a UFC fan, you know, everyone hates change and it’s a little weird when there’s change and you figure out what’s going on, there’s never going to be a better time for MMA than these next seven years,” White said. “The content, the promotion that these guys are going to get.”
White acknowledged that there’s a possibility of an opening-night glitch or two, but says he’s confident ESPN will pull things off without any major issues.
“I’ve been doing pay-per-views for 20 years, so there’s no nerves whatsoever,” White said. “I know on the ESPN side, this is their first one, the reality is, ESPN is so goddamn good at what they do they should have been doing pay-per-views 10-15 years ago. “I mean these guys are the best in sports, I’m sure there’s going to have their little bumps and hiccups, it happens when you’re doing something new.”
All in all, to hear White talk about the relationship with ESPN is reminiscent of the days in which he said the UFC would become as big worldwide as soccer.
“I’m telling you, I’ve never worked with a group of people that are so on top of what they do and so good at it,” White said. “This whole relationship with these guys over the next seven years, is going to be ridiculous. We’re going to take this sport to new levels.”
- Video: In-depth UFC 236 preview with John Morgan, Mike Bohn and Oscar Willis
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- Video: Watch UFC 236's post-event press conference on MMA Junkie
Source: USA Today – MMA Junkie
Read the full article here: Dana White confident ESPN's first UFC pay-per-view will run smooth