PokerStars will be featured during UFC Jones vs. Gustafsson

PokerStars Inks Deal With UFC As ‘Official Poker Partner’

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PokerStars is now the “official poker partner” of the UFC, the mixed martial arts organization announced on Friday.

The new partnership will first be on display for the UFC event Dec. 29 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. The fight card is led by a bout between light heavyweights Jon Jones and Alexander Gustafsson.

More about the PokerStars deal

The deal features PokerStars branding shown during UFC’s telecasts, as well as digital and social media and other promotional opportunities.

“We’re excited that PokerStars has joined our roster of global partners and has helped us create a new sponsorship category for our final event of 2018,” said Paul Asencio, UFC’s senior vice president, global partnerships, in a press release. “This agreement lays the foundation to work together with PokerStars in the future to grow our respective customer bases in key markets.”

“UFC and PokerStars have a lot in common,” said Christopher Coyne, chief marketing officer of Stars Interactive, a division of the Stars Group. “We want to thrill and entertain, both in our products and customer experience.

“UFC is the world’s leading MMA promoter with millions of fans and followers around the globe, while PokerStars is the heavyweight of online poker. It’s a classic combination.”

Pointed at international markets?

Interestingly, PokerStars is not an operator in Nevada, even though online poker is legal in the state.

The deal is likely meant to capture potential players in international markets and widen its exposure. The press release notes that the UFC reaches “1.1 billion TV households in more than 160 countries and territories in 40 different languages.” PokerStars is licensed in just about 20 jurisdictions worldwide.

The Stars Group’s footprint in the US is currently limited to New Jersey, where it conducts online poker, online casino gaming and sports betting. The company hopes to offer online gaming in Pennsylvania in 2019 and online casinos in Michigan — which is close to legalizing iGaming — in 2020 or beyond.

The UFC and gaming

It’s not the first time the UFC has had a gambling partnership. The now-defunct Ultimate Poker was named the “exclusive online gaming partner” of the UFC in 2013.

As a footnote, Full Tilt Poker once had a deal in place to sponsor the UFC, but that fell through in the wake of 2011’s Black Friday. (Both PokerStars and Full Tilt had their domains seized by the US government for offering online poker in the country in 2011. The parent company of PokerStars went on to purchase Full Tilt.)

- Dustin Gouker has been a sports journalist for more than 15 years, working as a reporter, editor and designer -- including stops at The Washington Post and the D.C. Examiner. He has played poker recreationally for his entire adult life and has written about poker since 2008.
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