Panini America, the arm of the sports collectibles and trading card company, is to produce the first ever non-fungible token (NFT) trading cards for the UFC, the leading mixed martial arts series.

The partnership builds on the existing partnership between the organisations, with Panini serving as the exclusive trading card manufacturer of UFC since earlier this year.

The Panini UFC NFTs will be digital replicas of the Panini UFC trading cards, which feature UFC’s biggest fights and moments.

The new NFTs, which will feature more than 100 UFC athletes, will be available for purchase via the Panini NFT blockchain platform.

The first set of NFTs will be introduced over a six-week period starting on 9 August.

Tracey Bleczinski, senior vice president of global consumer products at the UFC, said: “We’re excited to work with Panini America, the premier collectible trading card company in the world, to offer fans the first-ever UFC NFTs. The UFC NFTs are an extension of our very popular Panini UFC trading cards and an innovative way for fans to stay connected to UFC and their favourite athletes.”

 Mark Warsop, chief executive of Panini America, added: “We’re really excited about the huge growth and even bigger potential of the collectible NFT space — and our exclusive partnership with UFC is a major reason why.

“Since becoming the first trading card manufacturer to produce licensed NFTs in January of 2020, we’ve proven that the appeal of our most popular physical brands translates beautifully to the NFT arena. And we’re confident that our planned UFC NFTs will take the category to another level.”  

The digital sports collectibles space is estimated to be worth $2.5 billion worldwide, and organisations that have launched their own NFTs include the International Olympic Committee, the French Football Federation, the National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball, and Formula 1 teams Red Bull and McLaren.