SBD/January 20, 2012/Leagues and Governing Bodies

UFC Co-Chair Lorenzo Fertitta Defends Fighters' Pay After ESPN "OTL" Piece

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Fertitta called ESPN's piece "disingenuous" and "agenda-driven reporting"
UFC co-Chair Lorenzo Fertitta said that his organization’s fighters “are paid handsomely, and said there are several fighters on his roster who make eight figures in purse and bonus money a year,” according to Kevin Iole of YAHOO SPORTS. ESPN on Sunday ran a piece on “Outside The Lines” about pay disparities between fighters, and Fertitta “blasted ESPN for what he called ‘disingenuous’ and ‘agenda-driven reporting’ on the piece." Fertitta, who was “angered by what he felt was an unfair representation of his pay structure by ESPN,” said that “the reason his elite talent isn’t making what the top boxers do is because the revenues are vastly different between the sports.” Though there is a “public perception that the UFC has far outpaced boxing in terms of pay-per-view sales, Fertitta said it’s not the case, at least not in terms of pay-per-view sales and revenue per fight.” Fertitta said, “The numbers that a Pacquiao or Mayweather fight will do, relative to ours, are not even close. When you talk about it, first of all, their (pay-per-view) price point is higher. You’re talking about them doing 1.2, 1.5 million buys. The reality is, we’ve done that one time. Beyond that, we have a tremendous success story, but a lot of our fights are doing 300,000, 400,000. Our gates aren’t $12 million. You see what our gates are: Sometimes, they’re $2 million.” Iole noted another difference is the UFC “has more than 500 employees based in offices in Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Toronto, London and Beijing.” Boxing, by comparison, is “run by a series of independent promoters, many of whom only have one or two employees.” Fertitta said that since the company became profitable in ‘05, the “growth in fighter pay year-over-year has doubled the growth of revenue year-over-year” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 1/19).

GAME PLAN: YAHOO SPORTS’ Dan Metzer noted despite UFC postponing its upcoming March 24 card at Montreal's Bell Centre, but plan is “still to run 14 pay-per-view shows, with the new date for Montreal being an added event on the schedule.” The UFC schedule “will go silent from a pay-per-view event on February 25 in Saitama, Japan, until an April 21 show at the Phillips Arena in Atlanta -- a seeming eternity for a company used to doing pay-per-view events every few weeks.” Although the Canadiens currently sit 12th in the NHL Eastern Conference, Metzer noted due to the NHL’s Stanley Cup playoffs, the Bell Centre “had to keep all Saturday nights in April and May open.” UFC Canadian Dir of Operations Tom Wright said that the company is “still planning on doing three major pay-per-view shows this year from Canada: the Montreal show; an August show in a venue not yet finalised; and another trip to Toronto.” Wright: “We want to go back to Montreal. How could you not want to?” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 1/18).

STEP BY STEP: In Detroit, Matt Bishop reports the UFC “took another step in the ongoing battle with performance-enhancing drugs this week by enacting a policy where all new UFC and Strikeforce signees will be subject to a pre-contract drug screening.” This step is in addition to “testing regularly done by the state athletic commissions, many of which test fighters both before and after a bout.” The policy is effective as of Jan. 1 and is “a positive step, but testing done at assigned times is mainly looked at as a joke” (DETROIT NEWS, 1/20).
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