Next time Dana White says “we’re not for sale,” UFC betting fans won’t get fooled again. Talent agency WME-IMG announced today its acquisition of Ultimate Fighting Championship from parent company Zuffa LLC for a reported $4 billion. Fans have no reason to fret, though; noting much will be different other than White and the Fertitta brothers being a hell of a whole lot richer than they already were. While Lorenzo Fertitta will step down from day-to-day operations as Chairman and CEO, both he and Frank Fertitta III will retain a passive minority interest in the organization. More importantly, White will continue as UFC president. People who bet on UFC can now safely consider him the new Eric Bischoff.
UFC and WME have had a working relationship going on for years now. “We’ve been fortunate over the years to represent UFC and a number of its remarkable athletes,” (including former UFC women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey) WME | IMG Co-CEOs Ariel Emanuel and Patrick Whitesell. The former has been a friend as well as business with the MMA promotion since at least 2011, when he had a key role in getting the company a TV deal with Fox Furthermore, “we’re confident that the new ownership team of WME | IMG, with whom we’ve built a strong relationship over the last several years, is committed to accelerating UFC’s global growth,” said Lorenzo J. Fertitta.
When it comes to the UFC, betting on worldwide expansion is the order of the day for WME. “It’s been exciting to watch the organization’s incredible growth over the last decade under the leadership of the Fertitta brothers, Dana White and their dedicated team. We’re now committed to pursuing new opportunities for UFC and its talented athletes to ensure the sport’s continued growth and success on a global scale.” Emanuel and Whitesell said. UFC was founded in 1993 as little more than a glorified backyard wrestling federation – or the MMA equivalent of ECW –, and White and Co. bought it in 2000 from its original owners, who had no idea what they had and whose names have been rightly lost in the mist of time.
However, it was truly former WWE Intercontinental and Tag Team champion, ‘The World’s Most Dangerous Man’ Ken Shamrock, who brought UFC to prominence – a template that would recur with Brock Lesnar. So UFC betting fans can now safely consider UFC the new WCW. Fast forward a bunch of years, and the company took in about $600 million in 2015, as Lorenzo Fertitta told CNN. Moreover, UFC 200 made a record-breaking $10.7 million gate, though a case could be made that the returning Lesnar carried the event on his sizable shoulders – as if he were about to give it a thunderous F5 – especially since both Conor McGregor and Jon ‘Bones’ Jones had been pulled from the PPV show in the previous weeks and days. Accordingly, the Beast Incarnate – who, to the shock of absolutely no one, conquered Mark Hunt in the main event – was paid a $2.5 million fight purse, $1 million more than McGregor’s payday from UFC 196.