In 2019, UFC broke their financial records and reportedly had around $900 million in revenue. According to Dana White, the promotion did even better in 2020, breaking company records despite many others struggling during the pandemic.
“For us personally, it’s the best year we’ve ever had. Crazy to say that, but we broke just about every record we have, except for live gate, obviously,” White told TSN. “It was a very challenging year for us, to pull all this stuff off. It was without a doubt the hardest year of my career.
“During the pandemic, we were up 30 percent on ESPN, then as soon as it starts to average out, we’re up 18, 20 percent this year,” he said. “Our social media growth was massive this year. We surpassed 10 million followers on YouTube, earning us a diamond play status. Second only to NBA among sports organizations worldwide. Our Instagram growth in the US went up 31.17%. We’re number two only to the NBA again. Second most video views on Instagram compared to all US sports, number two to the NBA. And the Joaquin Buckley thing was massive, broke all kinds of records.
“We broke the record (for revenue). Consumer products was up 166% this year. The list goes on and on. We killed it this year.
According to the UFC President, with their growth and success, it raises the company’s current valuation to “probably nine or ten (billion).”
Like 2019, the bulk of the UFC’s 2020 revenue comes from their lucrative deal with ESPN. This is reportedly why the UFC was trying to skirt government mandates and travel bans early in the pandemic, as they wanted to ensure they’d meet the event quota and get around $750 million in revenue.
The UFC doesn’t rely on PPV sales and other unpredictable metrics as much as they did on previous years. They now make most of their money from guaranteed contractual revenue from ESPN, sponsors, international broadcast rights, licensing fees, and others. In 2020, another good revenue source are those “Fight Island” branded events, as the Abu Dhabi government reportedly shoulders costs and pays the UFC good money to host events (in exchange for some great PR and a bit of sportswashing).
COVID-19 did pose unique challenges, but despite the lack of ticket sales — which only accounted for “less than 12%” of the UFC’s 2019 revenue — analysts always expected the UFC to make bank in 2020. At the very worst, 2020 looked to be within their top two to three best years ever, but White now confirms that it ended being their absolute best in history.
In theory, this should mark the end of using the pandemic and lack of gate as an excuse not to increase fighter pay. In practice, it’ll still be tough for fighters, especially with the UFC being in the middle of a roster purge, releasing contenders and veterans as lesser known and far cheaper talent take their spots in the promotion.