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How Dapper Labs, the company behind NBA Top Shot, is bringing the UFC octagon to the blockchain

Dapper Labs is expanding beyond basketball with a new NFT collectible series tied to UFC Strike.

How Dapper Labs, the company behind NBA Top Shot, is bringing the UFC octagon to the blockchain
[Photo: courtesy of UFC]

UFC fans who have enviously watched basketball fans jump into the nonfungible token (NFT) frenzy via NBA Top Shot—the massively popular blockchain app that allows basketball buffs to buy, trade, and sell NFT “Moments” of, say, a LeBron James dunk—are about to get their own dose of Web3 fun. 

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On Sunday, Dapper Labs, the Vancouver-based company behind NBA Top Shot, is launching UFC Strike, a similar experience built around digital collectibles—in this case, highlight “Moments” of such UFC stars as Francis Ngannou, Amanda Nunes, and Kamaru Usman in mixed-martial-arts action. A major difference, though, is that UFC Strike Moments will have audio folded into the video clips, something that is not available on NBA Top Shot. 

[Photo: courtesy of UFC]

“When you’re watching the (UFC) broadcast, you can hear the commentator, the crowd noise, and sometimes the athletes and coaches,” says Tracey Bleczinski, head of consumer products for the UFC, who believes this will be a unique differentiator.

UFC Strike will also have its own customized look: NFTs will be housed in an octagon-shaped structure, a nod to the shape of a UFC ring, which is often used in branding materials, and the site will have plenty of gold and black imagery—the colors of a UFC championship belt.

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Otherwise UFC Strike will feel very much like Top Shot as it rolls out, with drops of packs timed to coincide with UFC pay-per-view events; a Discord channel where fans can chat; a marketplace to buy and sell NFTs; and opportunities to earn VIP experiences. As for how the deal is financially structured with Dapper, the UFC will receive a royalty fee on all NFT transactions in both primary and secondary markets (terms were not disclosed). The UFC will then split its share 50-50 with athletes.

The drop on Sunday will include 100,000 Moments, divided into Fandom and Championship tiers, all priced at $50 per pack. “It’s our first completely open drop,” says Caty Tedman, head of partnerships at Dapper Labs. “Others started with a closed beta, but there’s no gating with this one.” 

Tedman adds that Dapper has been partners with the UFC since 2019 (Endeavor, which owns the UFC, was an early investor in the company), but that “we’re just now coming around to really a maturity level at the company where we’re ready to launch the product.”  

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Bleczinski’s hope is that UFC Strike will expand the UFC’s fanbase and prove to be a gateway for blockchain enthusiasts who aren’t following the sport. “There are a lot of people within the blockchain world who are into these products but not necessarily the brand or the sports they represent. So we hope to bring new eyeballs to the sport,” Bleczinski says. “Once you watch it, you attend an event, and then you’re hooked.”

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About the author

Nicole LaPorte is an LA-based senior writer for Fast Company who writes about where technology and entertainment intersect. She previously was a columnist for The New York Times and a staff writer for Newsweek/The Daily Beast and Variety

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