Its too early to say a whole lot definitively about how being on the sports network, ESPN, and their streaming platform, ESPN+, will change the UFC’s product. What I can say is that, in terms of first impressions, this wasn’t bad. There seemed to be less downtime between fights, which was a major complaint on Fox and Fox Sports 1, and of course once the fights moved from cable TV to ESPN+, the fights flowed one after the other in a smooth, unbroken procession of violence. That was nice.
Not everyone’s experience was so blessed. My iPhone cast the stream without issue to my Google Chromecast, which was good, because it would have been hard to recap fights I couldn’t see. There were, however, many who experienced issues.
Others experienced issues of a different kind. One does have to wonder how being behind a paywall will affect the UFC’s viewership long-term.
Literally no bars have the UFC fights on tonight in my town this is unbelievable. This is a big fight wtf.— Garry Tonon (@Garry_Tonon) January 20, 2019
As a fight fan, though, I had no complaints. I certainly don’t hate seeing less Charmin and Farmers Only commercials between my fights. The bout order with the ESPN+ cards is going to continue to be weird, because the prelims will see the most viewers. Cerrone might have had the better chance to make his case for a McGregor fight on cable than he would have on the app.
Then there is the admittedly painful experience of getting unschooled ESPN talking heads trying to discuss mixed martial arts when it clearly isn’t their forte. That said, having Megan Olivi discuss fighter backstories during the walkout was a nice touch, and Ariel and Chael did a good job at their very noisy desk.
Just realized I’ve been following twitter all night while watching the fights but haven’t tweeted anything. I’ll start with this:— Matt Brown (@IamTheImmortal) January 20, 2019
Fuck Stephen A. Smith.
For hardcore fight fans, as long as the app didn’t crash, the new experience seemed fine. The fights were excellent; in terms of fight quality and technical skill, we’ve never had better. Greg Hardy lost by DQ after throwing a blatantly dirty knee, because of course he did. Gregor Gillespie continued his rise with his fifth finish in five UFC fights, Joe Benavidez and Dustin Ortiz put on a grappling funfest, Glover Texeira went from being nearly out cold to landing an arm-triangle choke in one round, and Paige VanZant snatched a comeback armbar win over Rachael Ostovich. Of course, we still got a lightning finish in the main event. Cejudo continued the trend of the fighter from the smaller weight class winning the modern superfight.
UFC on FOX's first main event went 64 seconds.— Josh Gross (@yay_yee) January 20, 2019
UFC on ESPN's first main event went 32 seconds.
The flyweight were half the size of the heavyweights, so makes sense.
The real test will still be the first fully televised ‘UFC on ESPN 1’ event with Cain Velasquez vs. Francis Ngannou, but that’s not for another month. Will ESPN bring in casual viewers that Fox wasn’t getting? That question remains, but for hardcore fans, the violence train continues down its happy tracks.
Were you happy with ESPN+?
This poll is closed
Yes- my experience was great
It makes no difference where I watch my fights
No- my experience was subpar