ESPN+ Bent Under Traffic Load for UFC 257 and People Turned to Pirate Streams

By Bill Toulas / January 25, 2021

The unprecedented anticipation for yesterday’s UFC 257 fight between Poirier and McGregor eventually translated into a massive user acceding onto ESPN+’s online streaming platform, which resulted in a catastrophic outage. The effects of this failure were further magnified by the fact that UFC’s president, Dana White, has spent the previous week threatening illegal IPTV service platforms and streamers who were planning to offer cheap access to the fight.

The man expressed his thoughts and emotions with profanity, highlighting how he felt about piracy and convincing people involved in these illegal platforms of distribution that they will really find trouble this time. This may have helped channel a large number of fans of the sport to the legal platforms, possibly to the level that it surpassed what ESPN+ may have estimated and prepared for, even when we’re talking about a game of this level.


Naturally, the people who wanted to watch the match turned to pirate streams, which were plenty despite the threats. However, and as many of these people paid for a "fight pass" to no avail, it is unlikely that aggressive statements from the UFC will convince them to do it again. This was a one of a kind opportunity for the UFC and ESPN+, which they essentially ditched. As it seems, the platform was more focused on tracking pirates than ensuring that their infrastructure will be able to handle the influx of users.

Also, this event highlights the risk of having exclusive broadcasting platforms without a fallback option. Sure, this is how business works, but having a backup plan wouldn’t be a bad idea when you’re looking to cover a sports event live and there’s no way to reimburse the disappointed fans if something goes wrong.

For history, Dustin Poirier defeated Conor McGregor with an early technical knockout (TKO) in the second round, so the actual class lasted for only 2 minutes and 34 seconds. Of course, the broadcast duration is significantly longer, with pre-fight coverage, in-between round rests, and post-match commentary. Some managed to gain access to the stream through ESPN+ along the way, but most turned to illegal streams from early on.

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