If, in pre-covid times, you wandered into your local bar and found it packed to the brim with sweaty, feral UFC viewers, there were a couple reasons why: 1) comradery, but mainly 2) watching UFC events is expensive as hell. This weekend’s Conor McGregor vs Dustin Poirier card weighed in at a whopping $US70 ($91), the highest price yet. Illegal streams were an inevitability. But, thank goodness, UFC president Dana White says he’s stopped some guy from pilfering pennies from his multi-billion-dollar company by threatening actions that, themselves, sound illegal — and all of this definitely, really happened.
Bootleg UFC streams are not difficult to find. Many, many people supply streams across a broad network of websites, subreddits, and Discords. Some are janky and barely functional, but others use Twitch chat embeds or are literally on Twitch (though Twitch tries to zap them before they can attract too many viewers). A couple days before the weekend’s event, White, an overripe tomato with a history of pearl-pristine honesty, claimed to have undertaken a border-spanning sting operation against one specific streamer.
“When I came out and said [I was going after illegal streamers], all these guys started taunting me,” White said in an interview with BT Sport. “So I went through, and I picked, I said, ‘You. You’re the guy.’ And I told my people, ‘I want this guy.’ And guess what, we got him. We got him. We’re watching his house, we’re listening to his phone conversations, and if he puts it up on Saturday, we got him. He pops this link up on Saturday, we got him, and we will arrest him, and I will prosecute him. I will not be nice. I will not give him any leniency whatsoever. I will go guns-a-fucking-blazing.”
White did not provide any additional details about who this definitely real illegal streamer was, beyond saying that he did not live in the United States. White also did not explain how his US-based company had acquired the necessary power to carry out an extralegal spy operation that crossed national borders.
Saturday’s fight card did not go off without a hitch. The first couple main card fights were marred by issues with the ESPN+ streaming service — US viewers’ only legal option — whose servers were likely overtaxed by the sheer number of people who showed up for McGregor’s grand return. For a time, illegal streaming was many people’s only option.
Nevertheless, after the event wrapped up, White said during a post-fight press conference that the diabolical stream bandit had laid down his arms.
“He put out a statement [right after the threatening interview], said ‘I will not be streaming the McGregor vs Poirier anymore, but I will show you how to buy it legally’ and put out this huge statement,” White said, appearing to read the one-sentence statement off his phone. “And now his whole streaming service has been deleted and is gone. Disappeared. One down and a shitload to go. I’m ready.”
It is not clear what streaming service White’s talking about. UFC fans have tried to find evidence of it, or even just the statement in which the streamer allegedly said exactly what the UFC would want him to say, and have come up short. Still, White is flying his “mission accomplished” banner — famously employed in the past by George W. Bush and Tuxedo Mask in that one Sailor Moon meme — and plans to keep weeding out definitely real illegal streamers one event at a time.
“Every event I’m going to go after one of these guys,” White said. “One of these or more, we’ll see. “And who you are, guy that did this, good move. We had you, pal.”
Streamers had better watch out. White already “got” “one.” If he goes after “or more,” god help us all.
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