Kevin Iole of Yahoo! Sports recently had the opportunity to sit down with Lorenzo Fertitta, co-owner of the UFC. They touched on a variety of issues concerning the state of Fertitta’s popular MMA franchice. Here are some of the highlights from that conversation:
Fertitta On The Success Of The UFC Brand:
One of the greatest successes that we’ve had, for instance, is the last show we did in New Jersey (UFC 78 on Nov. 17). We had a fight being headlined by two guys who had never fought for a championship and, relatively, had never been proven to be pay-per-view draws. But we basically sold out the arena in New Jersey and we did very strong, above average, pay-per-view. So to me, while it wasn’t Liddell-Ortiz, that said more to me than one of what you might call one of our bigger fights did. It showed that our UFC brand can carry a whole show.
Fertitta On Adding Major Sponsors In 2008:
I think you’ll see that 2008 is going to be a real breakthrough year for us from a sponsor standpoint. These deals take a long time to negotiate. We’re confident we’re going to have a big announcement in a month or two. The fact that we added Harley Davidson for this (UFC 79) card is a big deal.
Fertitta On Public Issues With Fighters:
Yeah, Randy has come out and made everything very public. And Tito is always talking like that. He’s been that way since we’ve owned this thing. One day we’re the greatest and he’s super happy and the next day we’re not. He’s like a roller coaster, so that doesn’t concern me too much. Overall, the majority of our guys are extremely happy. We’ve done a great job of promoting them.
Fertitta On The European MMA Market:
We invest into the sport to try to grow it by doing things like going to Europe. We took major losses in Europe (in 2007). We didn’t make money on any of those European shows. But looking forward five years, we realize that Europe is going to be bigger than the U.S. and a lot of those fighters are going to benefit from the way we’ve cultivated the European market.
Fertitta On The Distiction Between The Success Of MMA And The Success Of The UFC:
A lot of people talk about the growth of MMA. I don’t believe in that. I don’t know where anybody can show me there is this great success in MMA outside of the UFC. There has been explosive growth for the UFC, but MMA in general, nobody is making a breakthrough. The biggest non-UFC pay-per-view, you might know better than me, but it’s something like 25,000, maybe 30,000 buys. There is a bit of a misnomer there. It’s not the growth of MMA. It’s the growth of the UFC.
Fertitta On Dana White:
Bottom line, and I’ve said this before, but I don’t think anybody could have accomplished what Dana has. It took somebody like Dana who’s got street smarts, who doesn’t pull punches, who speaks his mind, who never bull(expletive), to do this. At the end of the day, if we had taken a Harvard MBA and hired him in 2001 to run this company, we’d probably be bankrupt right now. There are so many things that are unconventional about this business. This isn’t something you can read about and learn in a textbook. This is a business where, day-to-day, you have to be on the ground and you have to be on top of your game. Dana is that guy. I truly believe that Dana was put on the Earth to run the UFC. We talk about different points, but Dana does what he wants to do. He’s proven that he has great instincts and most of the decisions he’s made have been for the best. Nobody is perfect, but I think Dana White has done a fabulous job building this company into far and away the industry leader and I’m not going to start telling him now how to do his job. He’s proven he can do his job without me holding his hand.