There was a point in time when Lorenzo Fertitta was just about ready to cut his losses and get rid of the UFC after sinking millions into the organization to try and make mixed martial arts a worldwide phenomenon.
In 2005 — four years after buying the UFC for $2 million — Fertitta and his brother Frank were sinking a lot of their family fortune into the promotion to keep it afloat. Now a decade later, the Fertitta’s are cashing out with a sale of the UFC to WME-IMG for a reported $4 billion price tag.
"It’s the largest deal ever in the history of sports," Fertitta said about the sale when speaking to KLAS in Las Vegas. "We have just entered into a contract in what is the largest deal in the history of sports globally."
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In terms of sports franchises sales, the UFC being sold for a reported $4 billion trumps the Los Angeles Clippers sale for $2 billion with the same price tag that was attached to the Los Angeles Dodgers. In terms of entertainment, the UFC selling for $4 billion is the same price that George Lucas commanded from Disney when he sold the "Star Wars" franchise in 2012.
As part of the sale, both Fertittas will be stepping away from the company and Lorenzo will be stepping down from his role as CEO. UFC president Dana White will remain in place with the same role and still owning a piece of the promotion.
It’s the largest deal ever in the history of sports. We have just entered into a contract in what is the largest deal in the history of sports globally.
— Lorenzo Fertitta
"Me and Frank will continue to be minority in a go forward basis, albeit passive, I’ll be stepping down from my role of CEO," Fertitta said.
Fertitta was a huge part of the growth of the UFC with his presence behind the scenes, including negotiations with athletes, television deals and international expansion.
His exit will be one of the biggest parts of the sale of the UFC with other executives and roles within the company expected to stay the same under the new owners.
Fertitta says after 15 years with the UFC, he’s proud of what he accomplished with the organization but there’s no second guessing his decision to walk away at this point, especially after completing the massive sale to WME-IMG.
"No regrets," Fertitta said about the sale. "When you take something as an entrepreneur and you take it from nothing to the biggest deal in sports history, I don’t think you should have any regrets. I’m certainly not going to have any."
Lorenzo Fertitta, Dana White, UFC President and Frank Fertitta III
As far as the future goes, Fertitta is confident the new owners will bring the UFC to a whole new level, especially with opportunities outside the Octagon.
WME-IMG is a massive conglomerate in terms of a talent agency with the company representing some of the biggest stars in Hollywood including Ben Affleck, Matt Damon and James Franco.
Having that kind of power in Hollywood certainly won’t hurt the chances that fighters will be able to expand their reach in terms of television, film or endorsement deals with WME-IMG now representing the UFC.
"Everything that company can provide, I think it’s going to be exciting for the fans because you’re going to see more shows, bigger shows, more success and I think it should also be great and exciting for the athletes as well," Fertitta explained.
"Because I think it’s going to present them with opportunities that are significantly bigger than anything that they’ve ever seen before. So net-net, I think it’s going to be positive for everybody."