While rumors of the UFC being sold has been whispered about for months, if not years, it’s probably time we look at UFC owners Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta selling their 81% share of the company and walking away with a few billion dollars as an inevitability. Now is the time for real discussion. Now is the time we admit that the sale of the UFC will mark a new era of MMA.
A UFC sale would likely usher in a fighter union and, more importantly, the Ali Act into MMA. If the fighters — who are among the worst-paid athletes in all of professional sports — see that their blood, sweat, and tears are collectively worth $4 billion when 97% of them are making a few thousand per fight to get punched in the head, it could light a fire under their motivations to band together and finally unionize. Doing this would impact the sport from top to bottom.
Think about it — professional fighters being able to not work day jobs so they can focus on training and growing the sport. Seems pretty novel, right? MMA fighters fighting in the biggest promotions being professional by not having to run seminars or teach BJJ on Sundays so they can put on high-quality fights for our entertainment. It’s almost like that’s what this whole sport is all about.
But before we get too excited, just remember, we’ve been here before. Dana’s denial really means nothing at this point. There’s clearly smoke and there’s clearly fire.
Whether the deal goes through or not is the question.
The UFC has an antitrust lawsuit still floating around the California court system to deal with. Do the potential new owners want to take on that burden, or are we going to see the end of that lawsuit on the horizon? Could this sale mean a settlement for the fighters is coming, thus setting the dominoes in motion for the Ali Act and unionization?
Perhaps Dana and Co. getting ready to sell is the writing on the wall. The knock against the UFC is that it only promotes its name and not the fighters. This is why. It really only takes a Conor McGregor standing up against their relatively low wages to change the tide of MMA supremacy. I’ve joked with my MMA nerd friends for years about the power of Viacom. Bellator really just needs to write enough checks to buy away the UFC’s top talent and you’ll have a viable money-making machine. That’s what will probably happen with Rory MacDonald. Imagine Viacom offering the top UFC stars a slightly higher PPV percentage and slightly higher paycheck to show. There has been a decent exodus to Bellator in the last year, and the UFC brass may see their fat paychecks coming to an end. So they might as well grab a few billion bucks then move on to investing in the NFL. This means competition, and competition is a great thing for the fans. Competition means the best fights are made. We’ll get Nintendo vs. Genesis. Xbox vs. PlayStation. WCW vs. WWF and the Monday Night Wars. The fans win, and the fighters don’t worry about being destitute with brain damage. Win/win.
The sale of the UFC would also likely be the end of Dana White, which is a good thing. Dana’s the guy whose hot temper has blacklisted media that didn’t go along with his ways, abused reporters, mocked Cris Cyborg’s looks and continually craps on fighters who are putting their lives on the line for relatively little pay. Read our interview with Matt Mitrione to get an idea of how the UFC currently treats its fighters.
Lately, he’s been quiet, and it could be he’s on his best behavior for the impending sale. It all adds up.
So the question is simple: If you could cash out after your best fiscal year ever with a potential Ali Act and fighter union coming, Ronda Rousey’s career up in the air, Conor McGregor in flux and very few other stars who are bankable on PPV, would you? You probably would. Why not?
Amidst controversy over fighter compensation and potential rough years for the UFC (but good years for the fans) ahead with their spot atop the MMA mountain ready to be challenged by Bellator, there’s also Reebok. The uniform deal has been a black eye for the promotion. Recently Vitor Belfort said he was losing “millions” in lost sponsorship money thanks to Reebok, and across the board fighters have lost money. Every single fighter. The “fight kits” have also been universally panned by fans and media. While this was surely tidy packaging by the UFC to make the promotion look more professional (a promotion with Condom Depot on its fighters’ shorts doesn’t sell for $4 billion), it’s likely the fighters who will suddenly have a voice in a union, or the motivation to leave for Bellator which welcomes outside sponsors, will force a change in that category, as well. So aesthetically for the fans and monetarily for the fighters, its sale could be a good thing.
Or, whatever entity buys the UFC will be utterly lost after Dana and his jolly crew eventually depart, and this will pave the way to a Bellator era. Remember — Pride was arguably bigger than the UFC when it fell in 2006. Rome also fell. WCW was on top once, and anything is possible if a promotion is run incorrectly. We MMA fans are fickle, and despite what the UFC thinks, there’s a hardcore fan base that watches for the fighters, not the promotion.
Or I could be totally wrong, and MMA will become boxing, with only a handful of interesting fighters at the top amidst constant ducking. But seriously, the most important thing that could ever possibly come out of Dana and the Fertittas walking away from the UFC is the end of Face the Pain.