Getty ImagesUS sports giant ESPN’s live broadcast of the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s (UFC) resumption on 9th May pulled in more than 700,000 pay-per-view (PPV) purchases, according to the Sports Business Journal (SBJ). Originally scheduled to go ahead in New York on 18th April before being postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, UFC 249 returned behind closed doors in Florida, with ESPN+ holding exclusive US PPV rights to the main fight card as part of its broadcast partnership with the Endeavor-owned mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion. Disney’s over-the-top (OTT) sports subscription service also showed the preliminary bouts before the lightweight title fight between Tony Ferguson and Justin Gaethje, while earlier matchups were also made available on the UFC’s Fight Pass streaming service. UFC Fight Pass testing unmanned camerasUFC president Dana White said that the event was “proof” that professional sports could return amid the health crisis “under the right guidelines”. White made that statement despite Brazilian heavyweight Jacare Souza testing positive for Covid-19 in the build-up to the event and being forced to drop out. The decision to proceed with the UFC’s resumption could prompt the return of other MMA promotions in the US, while White has also announced that a subsequent UFC event will be held in Las Vegas on 23rd May.
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