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What Does ESPN BET’s Launch Mean for the UFC and Top Rank?

Patrick Cwiklinski

by Patrick Cwiklinski in Sports Betting News

Updated Nov 14, 2023 · 1:36 PM PST

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Aug 5, 2023; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Cody Durden (red gloves) celebrates the win over Jake Hadley (blue gloves) (not pictured) during UFC Fight Night at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
  • ESPN BET is expected to launch sometime in fall 2023 before Thanksgiving
  • The UFC-DraftKings partnership may put a potential ESPN BET deal on hold
  • Top Rank’s longstanding relationship with ESPN could turn into an ESPN BET deal in near future

With news surrounding the impending arrival of ESPN BET spreading like wildfire this week, there will certainly be some key parties watching with keen interest.

Chief among those are two combat sports organizations with longstanding ESPN relationships: the UFC and Top Rank. With existing sports betting partnerships already on the table, what does a new ESPN BET world look like for two of North America’s premier fight promotions? One thing is for sure, the welcome offer will be an ESPN BET promo to contend with giants such as DraftKings and FanDuel.

Let’s find out.

The UFC-DraftKings Conundrum

In March 2021, the UFC signed a five-year deal for DraftKings to become the organization’s “Official Sportsbook and Daily Fantasy Partner.” Since then, DraftKings branding has been seen across many UFC broadcasts with the deal valued at an estimated $350 million.

What this means in the short-term is that the UFC is locked into its DraftKings partnership until at least 2026. That said, the UFC’s ESPN broadcasting partnership, which recently saw a two-year extension come into play, will expire come 2025. While the overall sentiment right now is that the UFC will likely stay with ESPN beyond 2025 given the success of the partnership—it’s certainly not a given.

Endeavor CEO Ari Emmanuel (the UFC’s parent company) has said “there’s a lot of buyers out there” when it comes to the massive MMA promotion. If the UFC does decide to stay with ESPN, however, that may open the door for a future conversation surrounding whether they would be willing to partner with ESPN BET after the DraftKings deal expires in 2026.

A potential deal with ESPN BET could really hinge on how many dollars the sports media titan is willing to pour into the UFC. We already know that the DraftKings deal is a lucrative one and they continue to dominate sports betting market share alongside FanDuel. Realistically, this leaves the ball in ESPN BET’s court to see just how serious they are about contending with the big dogs.

Top Rank and ESPN BET Could Be Immediate Match

Top Rank’s relationship with ESPN stretches all the way back to 1980 when the sports broadcaster began bringing weekly boxing matches from the promotion to their network. Since then, and unlike the UFC, ESPN has always been the home of Top Rank boxing events.

Locked into their latest seven-year deal with ESPN until at least August 2025, there is certainly an opportunity for Top Rank to partner with ESPN BET in the very near future. Top Rank does not have a fully exclusive sports betting partnership like the UFC despite having worked with sportsbooks like Caesars for different boxing matches.

If Top Rank does continue to stay on ESPN, as they are expected to for the foreseeable future, there is a good chance we could seen the legendary boxing promotion link up ESPN BET at some point in time.

A New Era of Combat Sports Betting?

While the arrival of ESPN BET doesn’t necessarily change anything for the UFC immediately, there is a chance the MMA promotion could move towards the new sportsbook once their deal with DraftKings expires. As for Top Rank, there may be a clearer and shorter path to them reaching a partnership with ESPN BET.

In the short term, we’ll just have to wait and see what happens to these combat sports titans once ESPN arrives sometime this fall. Keep it locked to Sports Betting Dime for any new updates as they come. In the meantime, check out our pages outlining the best boxing betting sites and best UFC betting sites.

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