SBD/December 19, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

UFC Chair Fertitta Talks Rise Of MMA, Chances For More Growth

Fertitta said if you embrace testing, there is less perception you have a credibility issue
UFC co-Chair Lorenzo Fertitta in a decade has "helped transform the sport of mixed martial arts from a niche contest dismissed as the activities of hooligans to a major television network deal and a monthly flow of millions of dollars with pay-per-view events in usually sold-out arenas," according to Lance Pugmire of the L.A. TIMES. Fertitta sits for a Q&A with Pugmire to discuss MMA and how it can continue to grow.

Q: Your sport has risen to the prominence of mainstream sports attention moreso than any other over the last 10 years. What are your plans to continue to grow MMA?
Fertitta: It all starts with this Fox deal, creating this new layer of fans. We're starting to see that happening and we're just really getting started to expand into international markets like Brazil, Asia, Europe, Mexico. The challenge is what to prioritize. We've added infrastructure -- offices in London, Toronto, Beijing. It's a challenge, but why we're bringing in real smart people to deal with it. Five years ago, we had 25 to 30 employees. Now we have 250.

Q: The most valuable player of baseball is dealing with a positive test for performance-enhancing drugs. Your sport has been affected by use. How do you address this in a firm way?
Fertitta: We urge commissions to adopt random testing -- at anytime within 48 hours, they have to provide a sample. If a guy knows he's only getting tested before and after a fight, it's easy to manipulate. To me, that's the weakness of other sports, like with the NFL players running from HGH testing. If you encourage testing, embrace it, there's significantly less perception that you have a safety or credibility issue.

Q: What stands between your sport and full mainstream sports acceptance?
Fertitta: Sports media -- newspapers -- have been late to the party. It's a bit like what happened with NASCAR. This is what people want. So it's just a matter of time before these editors realize we have the attention of Generation X and Generation Y. We are the main sport online. That said, I do believe we're completely accepted as a major sport in the U.S. I still get the past stigmas when I go to other countries, but we're past that here now (L.A. TIMES, 12/19).
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