Trouble in Paradise


This may or may not be the Yacht the Fertitta brothers bought with their UFC Money

In case you missed it,

The guys who bought the UFC back in 2001, The Fertitta brothers, packed their bags and sold it in July for four billion. Happy days. Everything looked pretty chill not long after, Dana White stayed on as president and for the most part, the song remained the same.

Then recently some things started trickled out in the media about WME-IMG (The company that purchased the UFC). Mainly that the company is in a few billion debt already, from the purchase and transition from WME to WME-IMG. So how do they afford the four billion to buy the UFC? If I knew that, I wouldn’t be writing about sports, I’d probably work on Wall Street.

What I do know, is that in the past few weeks they have decided to lay off a tonne of staff. Not your run of the mill secretaries here and there, but big names with important roles in expanding the UFC. The Gameplan under the Fertitta brothers was fairly obvious. Expose the product to as many markets as possible, promote the shit out of it and gather new audiences till the UFC takes over the world, as it most definitely could. Whereas the new owners seem to have ground this to a halt. They have gotten rid of Ken Berger (UFC executive VP and GM of Asia), Marshall Zelaznik (Chief Content Officer), Garry Cook (Chief Global Brand Officer), and Jamie Pollack (UFC Senior Vice President of Global Content) are they looking at taking down UFC Fight Pass, or the whole international market? Who knows. For me, the system seemed to be doing fairly well (minus the Reebok deal, which has led to many, many upset fighters) so if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it….

How does this affect us, the consumers? Well, apart from a few (13) fighters who got cut last week, the most high profile name being Bigfoot Silva, who could have done with retiring anyway, for now, not much. The beauty of the UFC used to be that it seemed to actually care about the fighters. Now it has been bought, are the fighters being viewed as pure numbers by a corporation?

If so, they’ll just up and leave, to a certain degree. Maybe fight for Bellator, who may also employee all of the high profile staff recently laid off, and create a real challenge to the UFC. If they play their cards right. What I do know, is that competition is great for the consumer, lower prices and a better product as everybody competes for our money. Whether we like to admit it or not, we love to make dream match-ups between fighters in different organisations, Ben Askren not being in the UFC being one of them, so we’ll have much more to speculate about, that’s for sure.

For now, though, we’ll have to wait and see how it all plays out. UFC 205 is just around the corner, and the average price for a Madison Square Gardens Ticket is astronomical compared to the usual prices, so maybe WME-IMG will make some money back and employ some staff again. In the mean time, I wouldn’t go applying for any sports-related jobs, as you might end up in an interview side by side with Garry Cook, who’s CV reads: Nike, Manchester City & UFC. I can just about picture him in a Footlocker T-shirt……

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