Name: Ike Lawrence Epstein
Position: Senior Executive Vice President/Chief Operating Officer
Ike Lawrence Epstein is the Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer at UFC, the world’s leading mixed martial arts organization. He is responsible for the global brand’s worldwide operations, with over 300 employees across four continents. Epstein previously served as the organization’s Executive Vice President and General Counsel beginning in August 2007.
Under Epstein’s leadership, UFC spearheaded the regulatory effort for the sport of MMA, gaining approval and sanction from the world’s most prestigious regulatory bodies, including most recently the state of New York. As a result of Epstein’s guidance, UFC has become the fastest growing sports brand in the world hosting events, broadcasting and delivering content to over 156 countries and territories, to nearly 1.1 billion television households worldwide, in 30 different languages.
Last month, Epstein was named as a charter member and Vice Chair of the Las Vegas Stadium Authority board of directors. The board will oversee contracts associated with the planned 65,000 seat, $1.9 billion-dollar stadium. Epstein holds a Juris Doctorate and a Bachelor of Arts from Vanderbilt University and is a member of the Vanderbilt University School of Law Board of Advisors.
1) If money were no object, what technology would you build or buy to help you do your job better?
A one-stop shop app for all business needs via my smartphone or computer. One thing that blows me away is that with the increasing number of tasks we complete daily, either online with your computer or smartphone, is that we must register an account at each individual platform. I understand that each company wants my data, but there should be a way to curate one profile on an individual platform that services all your online transactions. I would even give that platform all my data and information to allow them to service it out to companies I purchase items from on a consistent basis. If I want to buy something from Amazon or Walmart, for example, it would be serviced through one platform. I think that would make everyone’s life more efficient.
2) As a sports fan, what sports-related service, app, product, etc., could you not live without and why?
My phone is packed with sports apps and each one serves its individual purpose. Whenever I have free time and I want to watch sports or get updates, I use them all. I have UFC FIGHT PASS, where I can watch our latest events, like UFC 208 this Saturday night at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, at home or on the go. I use my FOX Sports Go app to watch UFC prelims and football. As a Vandy alum, they have a great Vanderbilt University Gameday app that I use to listen to the radio broadcasts of our games live. I also utilize my ESPN app to watch the SEC Network and the NBC Sports app to watch the Premier League. They are all great and I use them all frequently.
3) What’s the ONE technology/product you’re most excited about in 2017 for how it could impact the UFC?
I would say 4K streaming. More families around the world are beginning to integrate 4K into their sports viewing experience and UFC is proudly at the forefront of that movement. We broadcast three events, UFC 200, UFC 205 and UFC 207 in 4K last year, making history with UFC 205 in November as the first professional sports Pay-Per-View event produced live globally in 4K via DirecTV and UFC.TV. This year, we’re going to continue raising the bar by producing numerous events in full 4K.
4) If you had to project 20 years into the future, how will most fans watch their favorite sports teams, leagues and properties? How is the UFC currently integrating different forms of technology into its event production to enhance viewers’ experiences, both on-site and on PPV?
I still believe that, even 20 years from now, watching sports live will be the most powerful way to experience your favorite events. I don’t think that’s ever going to change. There is a sense of community, togetherness and excitement at events. The reality is there’s nothing better than seeing a sporting event live.
One component that I think will be key to enhancing the overall live experience will be augmented reality (A/R). I can envision going to a Chicago Bears game with a pair of glasses that will allow me to experience the event, but also watch replays, secure stats to see how my fantasy team is doing in real time, look up information about athletes and stay on top of non-sports news. Instead of looking down and scrolling on your phone or watch, you’ll be able to have the information right on your glasses and not miss any of the action down on the field. It could even be voice activated.
5) Give us your bold prediction about a form of technology that will be integral to sports in general over the next 12 months and why?
Virtual reality, without a doubt. This may be more than 12 months down the road, but one thing we’ve always felt about the potential consolidation between UFC and VR is that it can keep our fans engaged for the right amount of time per round. For example, you can’t watch an NFL or MLB game that’s 3-4 hours with a VR headset non-stop. It’s a one-off experience you have alone. With UFC, an average bout lasts less than 10 minutes, which equals out to no more than three rounds. If you have multiple fight fans, each with their own VR headset at one home, they can watch our events together as an enhanced experience, sharing their passion and excitement in-between rounds or fights throughout the night. I can really see our sport transforming with VR.