By Michael Teich
The UFC is ready for a future without cable.
Ultimate Fighting Championship president Dana White says the mixed martial arts league's five-year deal with ESPN puts it in a position to go the distance, despite declining linear television trends.
"Everything is going digital. Cord cutting is real. It's happening and we see it in all aspects of the business, whether it's pay-per-view or television," White said in an interview with Cheddar Thursday.
The deal with Disney's ($DIS) sports network includes the broadcast of 30 UFC events per year. Ten of those will appear on ESPN's television networks, while the other 20 will air on its new streaming service, ESPN+. The package is reported to be worth $1.5 billion.
"ESPN, not only are they the leader in sports and the best at what they do, these guys are way out as far as social media, digital," he added. "Now is the perfect time for us to be getting together."
The agreement with ESPN comes after Fox decided to tap out of its UFC partnership. Instead, the network is spending over $1 billion on a new deal with the WWE. White, however, is not worried about going up against the professional wrestling league.
"Our competition is whatever is going to pull the attention of 18 to 34-year-old males, whether it's a big movie coming out or college football. We don't look at the WWE and say we're competing head-to-head with these guys. Our stuff is real, their stuff is entertainment."
UFC makes its ESPN+ debut on January 19 in Brooklyn, N.Y., when flyweight titleholder Henry Cejudo steps into the ring to defend his title against current bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw.
For full interview click here.