As reported, UFC has agreed to a multi-year deal with ESPN for exclusive live content on ESPN+, as well as across a variety of ESPN's TV, social, and digital platforms in both English and Spanish. This is schedule to commence in January 2019.
Although ESPN has agreed to carry 10-15 fights on its direct-to-consumer ESPN+ platform, and Sports Business Daily reports that ESPN has agreed to pay $150 million a year for five years as a part of the deal, a television agreement has yet to be finalized. Currently, FOX Sports and NBC Sports are two networks who are in talks with UFC, but a broadcast deal is not imminent. The objective is for the network to cover a couple dozen UFC events, in addition to the recent deal with ESPN+. The current deal with FOX Sports is set is expire at the end of 2018.
The television factor is very important for UFC, as the company aired 25 combined UFC Fight Night and UFC on FOX events in 2017.
Another big reason why television is important is the preliminary shows for the UFC pay-per-views. Out of the 12 UFC numbered events in 2017 (UFC 208 - UFC 219), nine of the prelim shows aired on FS1, while the others aired on either FX or FXX. This shows how important it is to land a TV deal in addition to the direct-to-consumer ESPN+ content.
At one point, UFC had a window where only they can re-negotiate, but that window has expired, which is why WWE talks has increased regarding moving over to FOX. While UFC hopes to land a TV deal before their FOX Sports agreement ends at the end of the year, WWE is also highly interested in landing a spot on FOX channels, as shown by television personality Colin Cowherd along with FOX Sports Eric Shanks and Talent Producer Jason Ullman attending a recent SmackDown Live show in Los Angeles.
Source: Sports Business Daily