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TORONTO – There wasn’t some grand plan behind the UFC’s decision to pull a pay-per-view headliner and put it on ESPN’s streaming platform.
And besides, they’ve done it before.
“We did it last time when we launched, too,” White on Thursday told MMAjunkie.
White is referring to the promotion’s network television debut on FOX, which took place in 2011 and featured a heavyweight title fight between then-champion Cain Velasquez and Junior Dos Santos. Although White was incensed by the brevity of the fight, it was a qualified ratings success with 5.7 million viewers.
This time, the champ vs. champ attraction, with bantamweight title holder Dillashaw (16-3 MMA, 12-3 UFC) moving down to challenge flyweight champ Cejudo (13-2 MMA, 7-2 UFC), is going online. ESPN+ is not unlike the UFC’s own digital platform, UFC Fight Pass. But it’s longterm viability is not yet proven, and the sports network undoubtedly needs the UFC’s muscle to build its profile.
Until very recently, UFC on ESPN+ 1 didn’t have a headliner. And on Wednesday, the card got a wave of bad press when a fight between convicted domestic abuser Greg Hardy got booked on the card alongside Rachael Ostovich, who’s recovering from an alleged attack by her husband last month.
White dismissed the controversy as a media creation, but there are real consequences for the relocation of the flyweight title fight. It’s the first time Dillashaw has competed at 125 pounds, and he will now have one less week to shed the required weight.
But despite all the issues the UFC has had with weight-cutting, White isn’t worried about his choice.
“I don’t worry about a lot of that stuff,” he said. “These guys are professionals. Dillashaw has been around for a long time and knows what he’s doing.”
Pretty soon, White and the rest of the MMA world will find out if that statement is true.
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