In a first for both brands, the world’s leading mixed martial arts organization and the “heavyweight of online poker” recently announced a formal marketing sponsorship. PokerStars, currently the largest online poker site in the world, has become the first casino gaming brand to sponsor the UFC.
Official Poker Partner
Under this new agreement, PokerStars has become the UFC’s “official poker partner” and has created a brand-new sponsorship category. The partnership announced to the press on December 21, 2018, began during the final UFC event of 2018: UFC 232 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on December 29th. For the first time in the promotion’s history, the PokerStars logo branded the world-famous Octagon and website details, and the brand’s presence was noticeable in official telecasts and social media promotions in the run-up to the event.
Although future collaborations between the two brands are still unavailable, Paul Asencio, Senior VP of Global Partnerships for the UFC had this to say: “This agreement lays the foundation to work together with PokerStars in the future to grow our respective customer bases in key markets.”
The Event That Made History
December’s history-making UFC 232 Jones vs. Gustafsson was the first official event sponsored by the global poker brand, and what a memorable night it was. Jon “Bones” Jones didn’t disappoint. Returning to the Octagon after serving out his 15-month doping suspension, he dispatched Alexander Gustafsson with a TKO in the third round. Fans have been waiting for that rematch since 2013, and Jones deservingly once again became the Light Heavyweight Champion of the WORLD.
However, it was a certain bout in the women’s division that set the night on fire. Hard-hitting reigning World Bantamweight Champion Amanda Nunes went up against the seemingly unbeatable reigning World Featherweight Champion Cris Cyborg for the co-title fight, and after a blistering 51-seconds of the first round, knocked out the most famous exponent of women’s MMA. It was Cyborg’s first taste of defeat since her memorable professional debut in the sport back in 2005, when she lost by submission to Erica Paes in Brazil’s Show Fight 2 event. However, the Brazilian legend remained calm during the post-fight press conference and expressed her desire for a rematch for the belt against her fellow countrywoman.
2019 Off to a Strange Start
With that thriller of the night closing out what’s been yet another eventful year in the promotion, 2018 will be a hard act to follow. But canceling UFC 233, which would have seen flyweights Joanne Calderwood and Ariane Lipski and lightweights James Vick and Paul Felder sharing the main event billing at Anaheim Honda Centre on January 26th, may not have gotten the year off to the right start.
With fans and pundits both left speculating as to why the PPV event was canceled, Dana White and his team successfully shifted some of the fights to ESPN and ESPN+ events. Vick and Felder, who with the cancelation of the PPV event have had their fight rescheduled for the second time, will go toe to toe at the Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix on February 17th for the UFC’s official ESPN TV premiere. Strawweights Cynthia Calvillo and Cortney Casey have also had their match shifted to the Feb 17th card, along with bantamweights Manny Bermudez and Benito Lopez.
Several other fights from the original PPV card have been rescheduled for upcoming ESPN+ fights, which will take place at as-yet undisclosed locations, including Yana Kunitskaya vs. Marion Reneau (bantamweight scheduled for March 9th) and Anthony Hernandez vs. Markus Perez (middleweight scheduled for February 2nd).
They may have been heading into the Octagon seven days earlier than they originally planned last year, but the fighters who had their bouts shifted to the ESPN+ card in Brooklyn on January 19th didn’t disappoint. Henry Cejudo’s flyweight title fight against T.J. Dillashaw brought a packed card to a thrilling conclusion, with Cejudo making short work of the current Bantamweight Champion (a mere 32 seconds to be precise) to retain his belt. Despite having had their match demoted somewhat to the undercard, Scotland’s JoJo Calderwood put in a powerful performance against Ariane Lipski, taking home a unanimous decision win (30-26 30-26 30-27) and proving that she is a genuine contender for the women’s flyweight belt.