With the Ultimate Fighting Championship growing bigger and bigger seemingly every month, it’s become an incredibly profitable business over the last several years, mostly thanks to the promotions President Dana White. There have however been a few instances where disaster could have struck, one of those times coming when their television deal with FOX was up in 2018.
At the time, it appeared there was little to no interest on ESPN’s side in making a deal with the promotion.
But, a drug scandal considerably reshaped the landscape that helped the sport grow to what it is today.
“I’ll tell you a crazy story. You ever hear of John Skipper? John Skipper ran ESPN. Now, I think he runs DAZN. Runs ESPN, beloved, looks like the squarest dude on the planet. Older guy. Hates UFC. Hates it. Hates UFC. Big soccer guy. For whatever reason, people like different things. And I’m not shitting on John Skipper. But this is a fact, this happened and this is a true story.
White continued: “John Skipper, beloved at ESPN, ESPN’s at the top of their game. These guys are killing it in revenue, they’re getting $5 per subscriber when cable was the biggest it’s ever been. So, our FOX deal is up and we’re probably not gonna do another deal with FOX. They’re selling off cable networks and restructuring. So they’re not the same company when we signed with them. And John Skipper’s never, ever gonna take the UFC. So, we’re in a real tough place.
“John Skipper’s cocaine dealer is gonna rat him out. So he has to tell Disney, ‘my cocaine dealer is gonna go public’ or whatever, so he has to step down from ESPN right at the time we’re trying to make a new TV deal. Who do they make president? Jimmy Pitaro, who ran Yahoo Sports for years. I’ve known him a long time. He’s a great dude, and he loves the UFC.
“Now you got him, you got a guy named Kevin Mayer, who is really closed to Ari (Emanuel), and we ended up doing the ESPN deal when our deal was up. So you want to talk about timing..”
It’s funny how things work out sometimes.
Today, ESPN has a deal with both the UFC and PFL, aiding the sport of MMA in growing bigger and better each and every year.
The sport of MMA is lucky to have someone like Dana White.
At the weigh ins of every pay-per-view event, a wise man says, ‘without him none of this would be possible.’
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