2018 YEAR IN REVIEW: May sees UFC sign broadcast deal with ESPN

By Michael Hiscoe, Managing Editor

Welcome to the fifth of twelve installments of the 2018 MMA year in review. In the series, we will look at the biggest stories and fights from each month and reflect on how things played out as the year went on. Be sure to check out the previous installments and stay tuned as we go through each month of 2018 over the coming days.

Top May Stories

5/8/2018 – UFC announced a deal to stream events on ESPN’s newly launched streaming platform ESPN+. The deal called for 15 events at $150 million annually for the company. At the time of the deal, the mainline TV rights were still up for grabs.

5/11/2018 – Nate Diaz and Clay Gudia got into a scuffle at a Combate Americas show. Guida ended up filing battery charges against Diaz.

5/16/2018 – Dana White announced a Yair Rodriguez vs. Zabit Magomedsharipov fight for Aug. 4 to which Rodriguez tweeted “Fake News.” Rodriguez was soon released from his UFC contract.

5/16/2018 – Reports surfaced that UFC was attempting to put together a Georges St-Pierre vs. Nate Diaz fight for the Aug. 4 pay-per-view from Los Angeles.

5/16/2018 – Leslie Smith filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board which would force a ruling on whether UFC fighters are in fact employees or independent contractors. Smith has been leading the Project Spearhead campaign to unionize UFC fighters. Smith was released from her contract in April after declining to take a fight after her opponent missed weight.

5/23/2018 – UFC and ESPN announced a five-year broadcast deal worth $1.5 million total. The deal included 10 events on ESPN cable, another 20 on the ESPN+ streaming service and prelims for all twelve UFC pay-per-view events.

5/23/2018 – Fabricio Werdum was pulled from a scheduled September bout after being flagged for a USADA violation.

5/24/2018 – Nick Diaz was arrested on domestic violence charges in Las Vegas.

5/28/2018 – Michael Bisping announced his retirement from MMA at age 39.

How did things turn out?

-UFC’s first show with ESPN is set to air on Jan. 19 headlined by Henry Cejudo vs. TJ Dillashaw.

-Yair Rodriguez was eventually resigned with the promotion and headlined the UFC 25th Anniversary event against Chan Sung Jung.

-Neither GSP or Nate Diaz fought in 2018.

-Leslie Smith continues to lead Project Spearhead, but little ground has been made thus far.

-Werdum was handed a two-year suspension in September.

-The case against Nick Diaz was dropped in August.

Key fight results

5/12/2018 – Amanda Nunes defended her bantamweight championship over Raquel Pennington at UFC 224 via fifth round stoppage. Also on the card, Kelvin Gastelum won a split decision over Jacare Souza and Lyoto Machida knocked out and retired Vitor Belfort.

5/12/2018 – Head to head with UFC 224, Bellator 199 had Ryan Bader winning a quick TKO over King Mo Lawal while Jon Fitch won a unanimous decision over Paul Daley.

5/19/2018 – Kamaru Usman won a unamimous decision over Demian Maia at UFC Fight Night 129.

5/27/2018 – Darren Till won a controversial unanimous decision over Stephen Thompson at UFC Fight Night 130.


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