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The UFC and Facebooks Parent Company Meta Are Combining Forces

MMA events are to be streamed in the Metaverse virtual reality world.

Image: Shutterstock/Kathy Hutchins/Frederic Legrand - COMEO

UFC President Dana White and Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg have combined forces to provide MMA fans with live and on-demand virtual reality (VR) events using the Meta Horizon Worlds software. 

The UFC and Facebook’s parent company, Meta, announced in October a partnership that would allow MMA events to be streamed in the Metaverse virtual reality world.

As the world’s most famous mixed martial arts promotion, the UFC allows fighters from all backgrounds, such as boxing, kickboxing, jiu-jitsu, judo, taekwondo, muay thai, or karate to test their combat skills against each other in an octagon-shaped cage. Its growth over the previous five years has reached unfathomable heights, and now, its evolution is entering a new era in online media.

UFC events, particularly their numbered pay-per-view offerings, generate millions of viewers. And with the newly established Meta partnership will offer MMA fans the chance to view the sport in virtual reality.   

Zuckerberg attends Fight Night while completing a business deal 

Zuckerberg blew up the internet when his appearance at UFC Fight Night: Dern vs. Yan on October.1 restricted the media and public from attending the event. Meta employees, including Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan, sat front row with White to see Mackenzie Dern and Yan Xiaonan compete in a five-round main event inside the UFC Apex. 

Criticism was rife when the UFC sealed the event to cater to the billionaire business and his team. However, the bigger picture was revealed, as this private viewing was also a meeting that would finalize the partnership, a deal that Meta and the UFC announced soon after. 

The companies will work together through UFC Fight Pass and Meta Horizon Worlds to stream live and on-demand replays of MMA events in VR. The first event was broadcasted in October, as UFC Fight Pass customers could stream LFA 144 in VR180 – a 180-degree panoramic view. 

There’s been no confirmation when the first UFC event will be streamed in VR, but we can expect an extensive VR broadcast schedule on UFC Fight Pass in 2023 and beyond. While the product has already made its debut, they’re naturally going to make the service as strong as possible by testing it with lower-level promotions before allowing the Meta Horizon World to host a UFC pay-per-view or Fight Night. 

Supporting each other

It’s no surprise that Zuckerberg was happy to make a deal with the UFC. He recently revealed his passion for MMA and the UFC on an episode of The Joe Rogan Experience. Furthermore, he isn’t just a fan of his sofa; Zuckerberg also trains in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and kickboxing. When ‘Zuck’ posted a clip of himself training, renowned names from the MMA world, such as ‘Suga’ Sean O’Malley, Conor McGregor, Alexander Volkanovski, and Cody Garbrandt, praised his skills. 

We should also expect an emergence of sports betting applications to become available for VR bettors as many U.S. states welcome the legalization of online sports wagering, such as Ohio. We’re likely to see an influx of support at the betting window for local fighters such as Vanessa Demopoulos, who faces Maria Oliveira on November 19, 2022, at UFC Fight Night 215. 

However, you don’t have to wait for Meta and UFC to wager on these contests, as BetMGM Ohio already offers an abundance of MMA odds on upcoming events.  

While ‘Zuck’ is a fan of MMA, Dana White and his fighters have publicly shown an interest in VR. Stemming from a background in boxing, White notably recommended Thrill of the Fight as a legitimate game to assist your boxing training, and so did UFC light heavyweight competitor Misha Cirkunov. 

“In training, you can beat anyone, but how to perform under all those lights and in front of all those people… that’s what I’ve been working on. I simulated it with a trick at home,” Cirkunov explained. He said he trained with the VR headset to overcome his stage fright. “I put on this helmet, and then I got into a championship boxing ring, and now none of that itches me anymore.” 

Partnering with Meta, which also runs WhatsApp, Instagram, Facebook, and Oculus, was undoubtedly an intelligent move by the UFC. Less than fifteen years ago, the UFC still fought to earn respect as a significant sports promotion. Now it has a partnership with one of the biggest companies in the world, thus solidifying the recognition as a legitimate sport it once longed for. 

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