The United States and China may be exchanging blows in a trade war, but the appetite for one American sports league may lead to a bidding war.
According to the New York Post, the Ultimate Fighting Championship, a mixed-martial arts league where fighters battle it out in a caged "octagon," is seeking to double the worth of its distribution deal in China. The UFC is seeking to collect $100 million over five years, according to the Post. Exclusive rights to the UFC belong to PPTV Sports. That deal, agreed to three years ago, is worth $10 million per year for a total of $50 million.
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The Post reports that several other Chinese media outlets such as Alibaba and Tencent have been approached about UFC distribution.
The UFC is hoping it can double the annual rate for their current deal because it believes it has found a star, according to the Post. And there is a demand for U.S. sports in China.
Zhang Weili, won the strawweight title two weeks ago, which made her the first Chinese UFC champion. And other American leagues have done in China in recent years.The NFL attracts a sizable weekly audience of 2.2 million viewers for games in China. And two years ago the NBA Finals averaged 25 million fans per game.
UFC Senior Executive VP Lawrence Epstein told the Post that 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.
However, he declined to comment on the broadcasting deal.
The UFC already has a presence in the county. Epstein told the Post that UFC opened a 93,000-square-foot training center in Shanghai this year that trains UFC fighters and the Chinese Olympic wrestling team.
Weili earned a host of praise following her win, which took just 42 seconds, including a glowing review from former UFC champion and superstar Ronda Rousey.