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Volume 23 No. 24
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Sale price validates, surprises some in MMA

The $4 billion price tag for the UFC surprised many people who have been working in the sport for years, but it brought something they have long been seeking: respect.

“It shows the sport is not a fringe sport but a major sport in the global sports community, right?” said Audie Attar, president and founder of Paradigm, an agency that represents UFC and other mixed martial arts fighters, including UFC stars Conor McGregor and Chris Weidman. “I feel validated in some sense. Validated by our decision to get into the space and validated by something we knew was going to be huge. And also, validation for our clients.”

Jeff Meyer is co-founder of MMA Inc., which represents about a dozen MMA fighters, including Paige VanZant and Urijah Faber. Meyer said he wasn’t surprised by the sale of UFC because of the rumors surrounding it, but he was surprised by the price.

“I will say what did surprise me was the valuation,” Meyer said. “Four billion dollars is a lot of money. And the only conclusion I can draw from that is the UFC is a lot more profitable than any of us appreciated.”

Scott Coker, president of Bellator, a potential rival to the UFC, has a lot of experience in the space. He built the MMA league Strikeforce and sold it to the UFC in 2011. He joined Bellator in 2014 after his three-year non-compete clause expired. Even he was surprised by the price.

“Was I surprised at the number? Yes,” Coker said. “That is a very big number. But I’m sure there are a lot of smart guys crunching all the numbers and doing all the forecasting who said, ‘This is the valuation.’”

Coker believes the deal brings the sport more credibility.

“This is a big landmark,” he said. “Everybody in the mixed martial arts industry should be jumping up and down for joy and celebrating with them.”

The price tag also brought high-fives at Premier Boxing Champions.

“The folks paying this price probably see what we see, which is [that] major sports continue to command superior valuations,” Mike Ring, PBC’s general counsel and chief of staff, wrote in an email. “The UFC has already built a league, brand, and a replenishing pool of talent, but there probably remains much more in earnings potential to justify, and likely surpass, this valuation.”

Agents said they could not say for sure if the $4 billion price would mean more money for fighters and trainers, but most believe bigger pay days are ahead for the talent and content of the property.

“Ari [Emanuel] and [WME-IMG] are going to come in and they are going to get bigger and better TV deals. Once that happens, I think that is going to raise the money for the fighters. I just believe there will be a significant increase in pay across the board,” said Malki Kawa, CEO of First Round Management, which manages about 70 MMA fighters, including stars Jon Jones and Carlos Condit.

Senior writer Bill King contributed to this report.