Two days after UFC 200 took place at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, the world’s leading MMA organization was sold to Hollywood talent agency WME-IMG for a reported $4 billion.
The Fertitta brothers – Lorenzo and Frank – had originally bought it for $2 million in 2001 along with business partner and longtime friend Dana White, who would go on to become UFC president. With the popularity of the sport seemingly at an all-time high and bettors wagering more on it than ever before, what does this move really mean?
For White, not much. He will continue to be the ultimate promoter and marketer of the UFC after working very hard over the years to get it to where it is right now. However, the Fertitta brothers will no longer be involved, stepping down to pursue other interests. One of those could be an NFL team, according to rumors around Vegas and additional speculation outside Sin City. White was quoted as saying they will buy an NFL team, whether it be the Oakland Raiders or another franchise remains to be seen though.
One thing’s for sure, the Fertittas will have earned a nice profit on their initial investment in the UFC and could use that to put a bid on an NFL team in the near future if they are truly serious. Vegas was just awarded an expansion NHL franchise for 2017 in June, and the NFL is next on the city’s priority list if a new domed stadium can be built soon.
Regardless, many are wondering how the UFC and fighters in particular will be impacted by the sale. While that is still up in the air, having a dedicated marketing group behind the organization that specializes in entertainment can only help increase exposure.
Currently, WME-IMG reportedly produces more than 52,000 hours of sports programming and distributes an additional 32,000 on behalf of more than 200 clients, including the NFL, English Premier League and Major League Soccer. The company also already represents former women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey.
Last year, WME-IMG bought the Professional Bull Riders (PBR) and has seen 10 events break attendance records and increased television viewership by more than 20 percent in 2016. UFC 200 made a total live gate of $10.7 million with 18,202 fans in attendance, the largest numbers ever for an MMA event in Vegas.
This despite the top of the card being jumbled when headliner Jon Jones tested positive for a banned substance just a few days before his light heavyweight title fight rematch with Daniel Cormier, who ended up facing and defeating living legend Anderson Silva instead.
Bettors should be excited by the move because it likely means more attention spent on developing future talent and promoting more fighters than ever before. Critics believe too much time has been wasted on marketing a few select fighters in the past rather than striving for more balance across the roster.
Plus, the more fighters that are getting paid what they are really worth, the more often they should perform up to their potential.