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Volume 22 No. 19
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UFC: What insiders are saying

“Look at what Ari [Emanuel] does. I mean, Ari basically sells stars to Hollywood. He puts movies together. He does a lot of deals. … He understands MMA. His investment group and the partnership he brought in, I have to assume what this company is about to do is they are going to penetrate markets that they haven’t penetrated before.
“Ari is going to come in and start to secure certain things, whether it’s China, Europe, India, Russia — all these places. He is going to do shows across the world. … I also believe these guys are going to come in and build stars. I think that is what Ari does. Look at all the movie stars they represent and look at what [WME client] ‘The Rock’ has been able to do.”

— Malki Kawa, CEO, First Round Management

“What does it mean for the NBA when the Clippers sold for $2 billion? All the valuations went up. … The sale of the UFC with that kind of price tag, it just proves the industry is finally getting the respect that it deserves and the credibility that it deserves. And now for the price of $4 billion, [it] shows a viable business can be built and can be sold. … It’s a great indicator for our sport. It’s great for our industry.”
— Scott Coker, president, Bellator

“WME has long arms in both entertainment and sports, and it can’t hurt to leverage those relationships that they have for the benefit of the fighters. … MMA Inc.’s first priority is the well-being of the fighters, and I think it’s a little premature to know whether there will be a negative or positive impact. I would like to think there will be a positive impact on the sport and the UFC.”
— Jeff Meyer, MMA Inc. co-founder

“It’s a monumental milestone in the sport’s history. It puts an objective valuation on the industry. It shows the UFC is a healthy and growing promotion, and I know fighters’ compensation has also grown. When you get a $4 billion valuation — that’s healthy. So there is a lot more opportunity that lies ahead for all the fighters.”
— Audie Attar, founder and president, Paradigm Sports Management

“It goes to show the profit that these guys are making and that it is a successful entity. The UFC is a successful business. It’s been around a long time now. It’s not going anywhere soon. That is one thing it shows me.
“On the other hand, when any company takes over another company — merger, acquisition, whatever it is — when you get a deal like that, the first thing you want to do is do what? You cut costs. You get rid of certain people. You do things to make that money back. Nobody wants to spend $4 billion and wait for 20 years and get it back.”
— Malki Kawa, CEO, First Round Management

“It is a huge testament to the hard work that everyone has put in to make this sport what it is, and I am really excited for what it can do for the future of the sport. It definitely brings in a completely different dynamic and a completely different level of professionalism and organization and structure to the sport.
“You know, having this kind of buyout, having these types of organizations (WME and IMG) involved in the sport, it’s nice to see that. … Hats off to the Fertitta brothers and to Dana [White] for getting this sport on the map for these kinds of players to have interest and see the potential of this sport.”
— Tareq Azim, trainer to UFC fighters and founder of Empower Gym

“Our sport is only 15 years young. How much money were guys in Major League Baseball or the NFL making in the first 15 years that the organization existed? I can remember in the late ’70s, early ’80s, football players had to sell insurance, they sold cars in the off-season, because they didn’t make enough money playing professional football. This sport 15 or 16 year ago was non-existent. It wasn’t even there. Do fighters want to make more money? I want fighters to make more money. I want everyone to make more money. But what a lot of people don’t understand is how much money was being invested and spent on making this sport what it is.
“For these guys to be able to buy a business 15 years ago for $2 million and be able to turn it into a business they sold for $4 billion … it’s kind of like … I know a lot of people say, ‘They’re lucky.’ I like that saying, ‘Seems like the harder I work, the luckier I get.’”
— Ed Soares, president of Resurrection Fighting Alliance and owner of the MMA Black House Gym

“My understanding is Dana White will still be in charge and I assume the same team. So that’s very positive for us. But you have to think there will be significant new initiatives given that size of investment. More live arena events perhaps? That’s what we hope for.”
— Dave Brown, executive vice president and general manager, American Airlines Center

“We have a really good working relationship with WME-IMG, and we look forward to working with them on possibly bringing the UFC back to Philadelphia. We have had two very successful UFC events, and I know the market is hungry for more.”
— John Page, president, Wells Fargo Center

“With WME-IMG as the buyer it should be a smooth transition, especially with Dana White remaining on board. We look forward to more successful UFC events in Orlando.”
— Allen Johnson, Amway Center executive director

“I don’t anticipate that it will change dramatically. I hope it will lead to more opportunities on the live event side.”
— Ralph Marchetta, senior vice president of the Phoenix Suns and general manager of Talking Stick Arena

— Compiled by Liz Mullen and Don Muret