If you are just a casual UFC viewer, or you are just starting to watch it, you may be wondering what is the difference between UFC Fight Night events and the “numbered”, pay-per-view (PPV) events?
UFC “numbered” events are Pay-per-view format and cost $69.99 to watch. They feature championship fights and other high-profile bouts with the biggest stars on the UFC roster. UFC Fight Night events can be watched on ESPN+ that cost $5.99 per month, and they feature lower-profile UFC fights compared to PPV events.
So let me explain in detail what are the differences between UFC Fight Night events and the “numbered” pay-per-view UFC events.
What Is the Pay-per-view (PPV) or Numbered UFC Event?
The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), an MMA promotion, was relatively new to the Pay-per-view form.
But, they got a huge surge in popularity in the mid-2000s, mostly because of the popularity of a related reality show on the cable channel Spike, The Ultimate Fighter.
UFC 52 – the first UFC event since its premiere, broke the promotion’s record with almost 300,000 pay-per-view buys (in comparison to 250,000 for UFC 5). 
Pay-per-view numbers got even higher in 2006, with its events bringing in about $222 million. 
In October 2016, it was reported that 42% of the UFC’s “content revenue” in 2015 came from PPV buys, followed by the U.S. and international media rights. 
In 2018, UFC 229 would pull an all-time record for the promotion, with estimates indicating that the event attracted nearly 2.4 million pay-per-view buys, breaking the 1.65 million buy record set by UFC 202. 
In March 2019, as part of a larger contract with ESPN for media rights in the United States, it was announced that future UFC PPV will only be sold to subscribers of the network’s streaming service ESPN+.
So as you can see, today you can’t watch normal or so-called numbered UFC events if you don’t buy the pay-per-view. These events cost money to watch. For example, numbered events will have the main card on pay-per-view, with prelims on ESPN+, and early prelims on UFC’s streaming service Fight Pass.
Now, mostly, normal or numbered events are usually headlined by a title fight, with the co-main event sometimes also being a title fight. There are some exceptions to that, but mostly it is a title fight or at least some very attractive fight.
How Much Does the UFC PPV Cost?
- New ESPN+ subscribers can buy a bundle of one UFC PPV event (streaming in HD) and an ESPN+ annual recurring subscription for $89.98. The ESPN+ annual subscription will auto-renew after one year, at the price of an ESPN+ annual subscription at the time of auto-renewal.
- Existing yearly ESPN+ subscribers will be able to purchase each UFC PPV event (streaming in HD) for $69.99.
- Existing Monthly ESPN+ subscribers will be able to either upgrade to an annual plan and purchase UFC PPV for $89.98 OR purchase the UFC PPV for $69.99 by itself.
What Is UFC Fight Night?
UFC Fight Nights are lower-tier UFC events than UFC PPV. However, not be taken lightly and any UFC fan will know, there are some great fights, and some great fighters as well.
Following the success of The Ultimate Fighter, Spike also picked up UFC Unleashed, an hour-long weekly show featuring select fights from previous events.
Spike also signed on to broadcast live UFC Fight Night, a series of fight events debuting in August 2005, and Countdown specials to promote upcoming UFC PPV cards.
On August 18, 2011, the UFC and Fox announced a seven-year broadcast deal through the Fox Sports subsidiary, effectively ending the UFC’s Spike TV and Versus (now NBC Sports Network) partnership.
The deal includes four events on the main Fox network, 32 live Friday night fights per year on their cable network FX, 24 events following The Ultimate Fighter reality show, and six separate Fight Night events.
In May 2018, UFC reached new U.S. media rights deals with Disney Direct-to-Consumer and International and ESPN Inc., succeeding those with 21st Century Fox, which began in January 2019.
The five-year contracts are cumulatively valued at $300 million-per-year for digital and linear rights, roughly doubling the amount paid by Fox in the final year of its previous contract, and include 42 events on ESPN platforms per-year.
ESPN linear networks will televise preliminary cards for UFC PPV events, and 10 UFC on ESPN Fight Night events per year.
The subscription streaming service ESPN+ will broadcast 20 exclusive events per-year under the branding UFC on ESPN+ Fight Night; regardless of network, all Fight Night events will feature a full, 12-fight card, and their preliminaries will air exclusively on ESPN+.
The ESPN+ service will also hold on-demand rights to UFC library and archive content, new seasons of Dana White’s Contender Series, and other new original content.
UFC Fight Pass will be purchasable as an add-on for ESPN+ to stream pay-per-view events.
On March 18, 2019, it was announced that ESPN had reached a two-year extension of the contract.
In addition, it was announced that in the United States, future UFC PPVs will only be sold through ESPN+ to its subscribers, and will no longer be sold via traditional television providers beginning with UFC 236.
At the same time, the standard price for UFC PPPV was lowered to $59.99 (from $64.99), and new subscribers will also be able to purchase a bundle of a UFC Pay Per View and a year of ESPN+.
Are UFC Fight Nights Free?
UFC Fight Nights are not free but are included with ESPN+, which costs $5.99 a month or $59.99 per year.
What Is UFC Fight Pass?
UFC Fight Pass is an American subscription video streaming service owned by the MMA promotion UFC.
The UFC Fight Pass shows live UFC, MMA, submission grappling, kickboxing, boxing, and Thai boxing events plus a 24-hour linear streaming channel and on-demand programming from a library of over 20,000 fights from over 35 promotions.
Fight Pass launched in December 2013 and UFC president Dana White said it would become “Netflix for fight fans.”
If you are interested, check out my full review of UFC Fight Pass.
The Bottom Line
UFC “numbered”, “normal”, or PPV events are usually championship fights and other high-profile fights while Fight Night usually has some smaller fights and up-and-coming fighters.
For UFC PPV events you have to pay separately ($69.99) then your subscription to ESPN+, while Fight Night is included in your ESPN+ subscription and you can watch it on TV wherever ESPN+ is available.