UFC negotiates with China in hopes to double profits
Ari Emanuel’s mixed martial arts entertainment company is banking on a new champion to double its profits in China, The Post has learned.
The Ultimate Fighting Championship, known for brutal matches with fighters skilled in everything from boxing to tae kwon do, is negotiating a new media- rights deal in China, years before its current one expires, in hopes that now’s the time to extract more money, industry sources said.
The negotiations come as Zhang “Magnum” Weili, born in China’s Hebei province, was crowned the UFC women’s strawweight champion last month — giving her star status in China.
The current media-rights deal, struck in 2016, gave China the right to broadcast UFC fights for five years for a total of roughly $50 million, sources said.
Now, the UFC is seeking to double those fees to $100 million — or $20 million a year. In an effort to get the deal done, UFC is holding talks with the current owner of China’s UFC streaming rights, PPTV Sports, as well as tech giants like Alibaba and Tencent, which also offer streaming services, sources said.
Despite an increasingly tense trade war between the US and China, US sports teams and leagues are salivating to sell to China, where demand for US sports is becoming increasingly profitable.
As The Post reported in August, Tencent in July agreed to pony up $1.5 billion — triple the previous price of $500 million — for a five-year expansion of its existing media-rights deal with the NBA .
Meanwhile, PPTV agreed to fork over a reported $233 million average annually over three years to air English Premier League soccer matches — almost 12 times the price of the prior deal.
UFC Senior Executive VP Lawrence Epstein declined to comment on the current China deal or new negotiations, but said the UFC is a natural fit for Chinese audiences because of its knowledge and love for martial arts.
“There is a culture that has an affinity for martial arts in general,” Epstein said.
Epstein said the UFC this year opened a 93,000-square-foot Shanghai training center that not only trains UFC fighters but also the Chinese Olympic wrestling team.
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