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UFC 236 preview: The dawn of a new error

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is back on pay-per-view (PPV) this Sat. night (April 13, 2019) for UFC 236: “Holloway vs. Poirier 2,” taking place inside State Farm Arena in Atlanta, Georgia, headlined by not one, but two interim title fights.

Unlike the traditional model, where fans simply called up their cable or satellite provider, UFC 236 will be the first event under the promotion’s new seven-year deal with ESPN where a subscription to the ESPN+ digital streaming service will be required to order the PPV.

That gives you, the fan, a handful of options. You can shell out five bucks a month for ESPN+ and then pay another $60 for every PPV that interests you, or pass on the service and head over to the local watering hole (like Buffalo Wild Wings) to watch it with your friends.

Yes, some fans illegally stream the events online anyway and this new, restrictive deal is likely to force even more viewers to give piracy a try. But there are also those consumers who already have subscriptions to Netflix and Hulu, among others, and simply can’t afford another annual commitment.

UFC will try to convince you that by lowering the price of the PPV from $64.99 to $59.99, it eliminates the price of the ESPN+ subscription and it’s basically a wash. Sounds great on paper, but it’s only a wash if you purchase all 12 events.

Sorry folks, but spending $780 to break even is not a wash.

Promotion president, Dana White, told Megan Olivi during their recent press conference (disguised as an interview) that UFC is simply joining the digital movement, which is the way of the future and everyone is inevitably cutting the cord anyway and blah, blah, blah.

He also said that anyone who doesn’t see the new ESPN deal as a “win” should shut up and stop covering the sport, because UFC got $300 million per year from the “worldwide leader in sports” in 2018 as opposed to $116 million per year from FOX back in 2011.

He forgot to mention the original asking price was $450 million.

How this new deal affects fighters, many of whom are accustomed to earning PPV points, is unknown. What I can say for certain is that for Jon Jones to sell 600,000 PPVs, there must first be a minimum of 600,000 ESPN+ subscribers, every single one of them must be UFC fans, and every single one of them must purchase UFC 239 in July.

Uh huh.

ESPN has done an admirable job of telling us how many new subscribers join every month, in what appears to be an outward justification for the hefty sum shelled out to carry UFC events. What the network hasn’t told us, is how many of those same subscribers jump ship after their seven-day free trial expires.

I’d love to know the numbers behind that revolving door.

I guess the above whine-a-thon was a longwinded way of being butthurt over the loss of freedom. I want to be able to pick and choose which UFC PPV events I purchase and I want to be able to push the button on my DirectTV remote to buy them.

UFC 236 is a solid card (see it) and let’s be honest, is there anyone out there in MMA land who believes the Max Holloway vs. Dustin Poirier rematch won’t deliver? And I’m also intrigued to see what Israel Adesanya can do against a grinder like Kelvin Gastelum. The interim titles up for grabs in both contests are of no interest to me because both champions, Khabib Nurmagomedov (lightweight) and Robert Whittaker (middleweight), are expected back in just a few months.

These are simply interesting fights that I’d like to see, but I’m holding onto my seven-day free trial for UFC 239, which on paper, is likely to be the most stacked fight card of the year. After that, I’m not sure what my plan is, but I sure do love that Thai Curry sauce on my hot wings.

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