MMA’s surging popularity and growth
Mixed Martial Arts is up year-over-year in every category: revenues, profits, pay-per-view, live gate, international TV sales, sponsorship, everywhere...
If website visitation is any indication, there is a new sport around that is capturing the hearts of U.S. consumers. The UFC, attracts a greater number of visitors to its website than the organizations that run professional golf, soccer, bowling and tennis.
the UFC is the fastest growing sport
The sport's popularity was also noticed by the sports betting community as BodogLife.com, an online gambling site, stated in July 2007 that in 2007 UFC would surpass boxing for the first time in terms of betting revenues. In fact, the UFC had already broken the pay-per-view industry's all-time records for a single year of business, generating over $222,766,000 in revenue in 2006, surpassing both WWE and boxing.
CNBC aired a special report on the UFC called "Ultimate Fighting: Fistful of Dollars," with the net's Scott Wapner saying the UFC, the "premiere brand" in MMA, has "muscled its way into the mainstream and has even gone global" since the league was initially profiled by CNBC in '07.
UFC PPV event in '08 "generated more than 5 million buys, beating the demand for boxing and wrestling," and that "windfall has brought huge paydays for UFC's top fighters." Live UFC events "typically sell-out and remain a hot commodity," which is evidence to UFC co-Owner Lorenzo Fertitta that the league is "weathering the economic downturn pretty well." Fertitta: "We are up year-over-year in every category: revenues, profits, pay-per-view, live gate, international TV sales, sponsorship, everywhere. The question is, without the recession where would our business be?" UFC claims its '08 revenues were $275M, up 37% from two years earlier. Meanwhile, Burger King is a sponsor of Spike's "The Ultimate Fighter" reality show, and Wapner said if "that's not the ultimate sign that Ultimate Fighting has officially arrived," the "UFC Undisputed 2009" videogame selling "more than 1 million copies ... in its first 12 days on the shelves" is. Wapner also added the UFC's rise "has been a boon to Las Vegas itself, bringing in $86(M) in nongaming revenue in 2008 alone" ("Ultimate Fighting: Fistful of Dollars," CNBC, 7/29).
What is MMA?
Mixed martial arts (MMA) is a full contact combat sport that allows a wide variety of fighting techniques and skills, from a mixture of martial arts and non-martial arts traditions, to be used in competitions. The rules allow the use of both striking as well as grappling techniques, both while standing and on the ground. Such competitions allow martial artists of different backgrounds to compete.
What is the UFC?
The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is an American MMA promotion company that hosts most of the top-ranked fighters in the world and produces numerous events worldwide. The UFC has five weight-divisions (growing to seven in 2011) and enforces the unified rules of mixed martial arts. Dana White serves as the president of the UFC; Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta control its parent company, Zuffa, LLC.
Above at UFC Fight Night 20 Rory Macdonald (the youngest fighter in the UFC born July 22, 1989), winning the fight via submission (armbar) in the first round against Mike Guymon.
A Forbes story in May 2008 estimated the privately held company (UFC) was worth perhaps $1 billion. Fertitta said then that several investors have offered more than that for the league. Fertitta told the AP that those offers have come from many private equity funds, as well as several media companies and hedge funds.
Does White want his partners to cash out while the price is high? "Absolutely not," he says. "I love what I do and think we are just scratching the surface with this sport." Neither brother seems inclined to sell, either. "I'm sure we could find something to do if we did," Frank Fertitta III laughs. "But we're having too much fun."
The Billion-Dollar Blood sport
In just six years Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta have turned ufc from a cash-bleeding loser into a $1 billion champ. Here's a look ...
- Price the Fertittas paid for UFC in 2001: $2 million
- Value today: $1 billion-plus
- UFC estimated 2008 sales: $250 million
- UFC is estimated to control 90% of the mixed martial arts industry.
- UFC pay-per-view buys in 2001: 145,000
- UFC pay-per-view buys in 2007: 5.1 million
- The average UFC pay-per-view event draws 3 million male viewers between 18 and 49--often the same as a big college football GAME.
- UFC employs 275 fighters.
- Most make more than $100,000 a year.
- Superstars make millions.
- The average ticket price of a live UFC event in 2007: $250