Fanatics to release UFC trading cards under Topps brand

UFC and Fanatics Collectibles have entered into a multiyear partnership granting Fanatics the exclusive rights to produce UFC trading cards.

Terms of the deal, announced Wednesday, were not immediately available.

The cards will be produced under the Topps brand, which first owned the exclusive rights to UFC trading cards from 2009 to 2020. Panini America took over the license in 2021, but as Fanatics Collectibles' vice president of global licensing and partner development Kelvin Smith told ESPN, UFC is "coming home."

"UFC has unique personalities, exciting young stars, which is obviously big in the collector community," Smith said. "It's got the right cadence where there are key, historic moments we can celebrate through trading cards. It sits well with our business. We're looking for ways to bring fans and collectors closer to their favorite athletes and fighters. They'll be the perfect partner for us."

The first product will be 2024 Topps Chrome UFC, in hobby and retail shops on Feb. 28.

"Today is a day of celebration for both the hobby and all UFC fans," Fanatics Collectibles CEO Mike Mahan said. "UFC trading cards are incredibly popular among collectors. [We] are truly honored to be able to once again make innovative and fun cards featuring the next wave of stars."

The deal fortifies an existing partnership between UFC and Fanatics Commerce. On Fanatics Live, a creator-run live card breaking (interactive card pack and box openings) and shopping platform, fans and collectors can watch as athletes join live and give exclusive interviews.

"If you're a collector and fan who doesn't necessarily have an opportunity to go to a fight, this is a way you can engage with or be closer to your favorite athlete," Smith said. (Athletes appearing on Fanatics Live are not limited to UFC.)

Tracey Bleczinski, UFC's senior vice president of global consumer products, said the deal with Fanatics wasn't necessarily a knock on Panini, which Bleczinski called "a good partner."

"We appreciated [Panini's] passion for the sport and the athletes," Bleczinski said, adding that Fanatics Live was a selling point. "We started a new wide-ranging licensing partnership with Fanatics that also includes event and e-commerce merchandise. Fanatics has become a leader in the merchandise industry by being innovative and pushing the envelope. We're confident they can help us take our trading card business to the next level."

It has been a busy month for TKO Group Holdings, the sports and entertainment company resulting from the WWE and UFC merger. A 10-year, $5 billion partnership between Netflix and WWE will bring "Raw" to the streaming service starting in January 2025.