Combat sports have taken the world by storm over the last decade or so. Sure, mixed martial arts has technically been around since the days of ancient China, in the form of Leitai – a blend of Chinese martial arts, boxing, and wrestling – and also persisted throughout Ancient Greece and Egypt, evolving from culture to culture, era to era. But never before has MMA been as popular as it is today. And this is largely due to the way that the Ultimate Fighting Championship (the UFC) has managed to successfully popularize it for mainstream Western audiences.
For fans of boxing and/or professional wrestling, the UFC was a natural next step. It is like boxing, but more extreme. It is not entirely unlike wrestling, but 100% real. MMA has captivated audiences around the world, many of whom cite it as the most athletically impressive professional sport being broadcast today.
As a mild-mannered and scrawny geek who reviews websites for a living, I don’t really have much room to comment on whether UFC is, in fact, requires the most athletic prowess of any professional sport in modern times. The most athletic thing that I’ve done in the last year is shoveled my car out of the snow. However, I can say with certainty that UFC fights are extremely impressive. The mere fact that they require the mastery of not one, but multiple martial arts is enough to get me on board. Then, to have the courage and the confidence to take those skills that they spent years perfecting into a literal cage and try to physically best a man whose arms may or may not be considered lethal weapons … “impressive” is an understatement.
Even though I would almost certainly be sent to the hospital if I ever got into a fight, one thing that I can do is tell you which sites are the best for streaming MMA content and why. I’m kind of the heavyweight champion of website reviews. And the site that we’ll be going toe to toe with today is one that any MMA fan has probably heard about at one point or another. It’s the UFC’s official streaming service. It is a must-have for all serious UFC fans … the site is, of course, UFC TV – also known as UFC Fight Pass.
The American subscription-based streaming service, UFC Fight Pass features live UFC fights, as well as other MMA, submission grappling, kickboxing, boxing, and Thai boxing events. It is a 24-hour streaming service that features content in a linear fashion. In other words, it is less like a Netflix or Hulu that enables you to watch anything whenever you want and more like an all-access all MMA cable channel that you subscribe to. However, UFC Fight Pass does also offer on-demand streaming from a robust archive of past matches – over 20,000 of them to be exact.
UFC Fight Pass launched in December of 2012. Upon its launch, UFC’s president Dana White claimed that it would become “Netflix for fight fans.” And even though it started out with primarily UFC content only, it quickly grew and acquired additional content. In March of 2014, for instance, Fight Pass added the libraries of WEC, PRIDE FC, Affliction, Strike Force, and Elite XC to its catalog. And in September of the same year, Invicta FC also began live-streaming events on Fight Pass, only widening the streaming services breadth.
The comparison that the UFC president made of Fight Pass being like “Netflix for fight fans” turns out to be a rather apt one, especially from a design standpoint. The site (and the various apps) are very reminiscent of Netflix. From the black and red theme to the layout of how you browse the streaming service’s archives of footage, if you saw Fight Pass out of the corner of your eye, it would be easy to mistake it for the famous movie and TV show streaming site.
So, then, it probably goes without saying that the UFC Fight Club’s design is stylish, modern, minimalistic, and intuitive. I love the way that browsing for other content while watching something transparently overlays on top of the content you are currently viewing. Your enjoyment of the content, in other words, is seldom interrupted and you don’t have to pause or stop a stream in order to access a different one. This is especially useful when it comes to the service’s live streams – view stats, additional content, and schedules without missing a beat in whatever match happens to be airing at the time.
UFC Fight Pass may just be one of the nicest looking streaming services that I have ever seen. It is sleek, immersive, intuitive, and experiential – exactly what you want out of an app and a site that you pay monthly or yearly to access. UFC Fight Pass will not disappoint even the pickiest of fans.
As I have already touched upon a little bit earlier, UFC Fight Pass basically offers 3 main types of content: live UFC and MMA matches, pre-recorded UFC and MMA fights, and original commentary content. Personally, I am a big fan of the way that Fight Pass blends live airing and on-demand streaming, providing a unique best of both worlds scenario in which you can watch Fight Pass as if it is its own premium cable channel or treat it like the Netflix of fighting. No matter how you prefer to view your fights, UFC Fight Pass has you covered.
The big missing piece of the puzzle, though, when it comes to content takes the shape of pay per view events. None of the big UFC events are available with your UFC Fight Pass subscription. You will still have to purchase each event individually, and they will not become available in the library until 30 days after they air. That being said, you do have access to every PPV prelim matchup, keeping you up to date every punch of the way.
Mobile and Desktop Experience
In my opinion, UFC Fight Pass is best enjoyed on the computer or through a smart TV. The optics, for obvious reasons, are much better than trying to watch MMA on your phone. Also, the UFC app has a pretty sordid critical history. Apparently, there have been many missing features, bugs, and problems that, over time, UFC has worked to fix. The UFC app, for example, on the Apple App Store has one of the lowest ratings I have ever seen, 2.0 stars (out of 5). People really seem to dislike this app. From what I can tell, though, a lot of these negative reviews come from quite a while ago. It seems as if many of the issues have been addressed, but I would still say that you are better off with the excellent and intuitive design and flow of the desktop site or Roku app over trying to use UFC Fight Pass on your iPhone or Android device.
Pricing and Plans
When compared with other professional sports streaming apps, UFC Fight Pass is pretty fairly priced. Especially considering the amount of content that it gives you access to. You have two options for subscriptions with Fight Pass. Either pay monthly or annually. You can sign up for a noncommittal monthly subscription and pay $9.99 each month, or you can sign up for a whole year upfront for $95.99, saving you 20% in the long run.
When you take into account all of the live fights and thousands of hours of archived footage that UFC Fight Pass has to offer, the yearly price begins to look like a steal. However, if you aren’t sure yet whether Fight Pass is right for you, you can always just pay the ten bucks and try it out for a month. Unfortunately, at this time there is not a free trial option.
Suggestions that I have for UFC TV
According to the exceedingly low app rating, I would suggest that UFC work on its app to address the concerns that users seem to have once and for all. It is probably worth considering just building a whole new app specifically for Fight Pass instead of rolling the Fight Pass features into this more generalized UFC app.
I would also like to see UFC Fight Pass offer a free trial for would-be users. I think that letting people try it out, especially since some of the content is a tad more esoteric than strictly offering exclusively UFC matches, would be smart. Oh, and maybe add another subscription tier that includes PPV matches (or at least a certain number of them!).