Updated March 4, 2021 - 9:17 am
DraftKings is now the official sportsbook and daily fantasy partner of the UFC in the United States and Canada. The deal was announced by the companies Thursday morning.
The agreement dictates a change to the official timing mechanism and how it is displayed during bouts. A DraftKings-branded clock counting down the time in each round will be visible to fighters and spectators. It will debut at UFC 259 on Saturday at the Apex in Las Vegas.
“It’s the biggest deal we’ve done on so many levels in the history of the UFC,” said Lawrence Epstein, UFC senior executive vice president and chief operating officer.
DraftKings plans to offer expanded betting options for fans and integrate live odds into UFC broadcasts. DraftKings also acquires the right to use UFC branding across its daily fantasy and sports betting platforms.
“This is a massive deal that will benefit UFC, DraftKings and, most of all, the fans,” UFC president Dana White said. “DraftKings is the best at what they do in the betting and daily fantasy space, and unlike other sports, UFC has no offseason. The action will be nonstop for fans of UFC and DraftKings.”
Epstein said the UFC considers three factors before entering into any such pacts. Financial considerations are obviously first, with strong belief in a brand a close second. The organization also looks at how a potential partner is going to help engage existing fans and expand the reach of the UFC.
“We know living in Las Vegas that when people gamble on sports, they get more engaged,” he said. “The first thing we’re going to see as gambling continues to grow is that some UFC fans will have the opportunity to bet on the UFC, and some who are just interested in gambling will have the opportunity to maybe discover the UFC and become fans.”
DraftKings co-founder Jason Robins said he’s excited about the partnership.
“Combat sports and UFC in particular have scaled significantly across both our sportsbook and daily fantasy verticals, evolving from a niche offering to a high-demand category that we believe will only grow further as we innovate,” Robins said. “While DraftKings and UFC have previously collaborated on specific events, we are proud to become official partners and explore even more impactful integrations that prioritize the fan experience.”
The clock will be the most noticeable change for fighters and viewers.
“It’s definitely going to transform both the viewer experience and the fighter experience,” Epstein said. “You’ve seen times when fighters are looking around for a screen in the arena for how much time is left in the round. Now that information will be clearly visible to the athletes. For the viewers on TV and in the arena, the clock is so cool. We’re excited to get the fans back and get their feedback as soon as possible.”
The UFC is currently holding weekly cards without a live audience at its Apex facility.
The timer will be integrated with the official time and the broadcast to ensure accuracy.
DraftKings also will have a branded presence on the octagon canvas at select events during the broadcast and on social media.
The sportsbook, which does not operate in Nevada, will also host free fantasy games and offer proposition wagers.