The UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) has been acquired by talent agency powerhouse WME-IMG at an astonishing price tag of $4 billion. The sale values the UFC at roughly seven times its gross earnings in what’s quickly being labeled the most expensive transaction in sports history.
Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta III have been the majority owners of the UFC since 2001.
Led by super agent Ari Emanuel, the notorious inspiration of Jeremy Piven’s character on the HBO series “Entourage,” WME-IMG has represented various UFC athletes over the years.
“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,” Emanuel and his co-CEO Patrick Whitesell said in a statement. “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.”
Buy Low, Sell High
Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta III were billionaires before selling off the UFC. The two brothers inherited Station Casinos from their father and have since grown the company in Nevada and in other parts of the country.
But their biggest deal is unquestionably the UFC.
Purchased in 2001 for $2 million, the Fertittas retained 80 percent ownership of the UFC until this week. For anyone doing the math, that equates to $3.2 billion coming their way once the transaction is completed.
In hindsight, buying the UFC seems like a no-brainer, but that was certainly not the case 15 years ago. The violent sport was labeled “human cockfighting” by Senator John McCain (R-Arizona), and the Fertittas own lawyers didn’t understand the attraction.
“I had my attorneys tell me that I was crazy,” Lorenzo told Fighter’s Only magazine. “I was paying $2 million and they were saying, ‘What are you getting?'”
The deal is of course paying dividends in ways few could have ever imagined.
The Fertittas’ right-hand man, Dana White, will remain as UFC president.
“I’m looking forward to working with WME-IMG to continue to take this sport to the next level,” White said in the press release.
Spieth Skipping Olympics
More bad news from Rio, though this time it’s not the contaminated water or Zika virus. Jordan Spieth, golf’s third-ranked player in the world, has officially withdrawn his name from the Summer Olympics on health concerns.
He joins golf’s #1 Jason Day, #2 Dustin Johnson, and #4 Rory McIlroy in bypassing Rio.
The sport hasn’t been an Olympic competition since 1904. Enthusiasm was widespread when the International Olympic Committee decided to return the game, but various concerns in Rio are keeping the stars away.
“This year I just had to try and weigh a risk that doesn’t present itself every year,” Spieth told reporters at a press conference this week. “This was harder than trying to decide what university to go to . . . I bounced back and forth with it, and ultimately made a decision.”
McIlroy wasn’t so cordial in his explanation.
“I don’t feel like I’ve let the game down at all. I didn’t get into golf to try and grow the game. I got into golf to win championships,” McIlroy elucidated.
All four of the top players are in Scotland for the 145th Open Championship, the third of four majors on the men’s calendar.