Endeavor Group Holdings operates the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), founded in Las Vegas, Nevada which is the American mixed martial arts promotion company and the largest in the world. UFC features amazing fighters of the highest-level. Dana White is president since 2001.
UFC also includes Art Davie, Bob Meyrowitz, Campbell McLaren, David Isaacs, John Milius, and Rorian Gracie as important people of the company. There are over 530 events held by UFC as of 2021. It has gained popularity over the years and the road to success is an interesting story. It gained popularity gradually and now is successful around the world.
There had been a boost in the popularity of the Ultimate Fight Championship after the purchase of Zuffa, LLC. There were DVD releases, corporate sponsorship, cable pay-per-view, subsequent home video, and greater advertising. It got its very first deal on television with Fox Sports Ne. The main event was between Chuck Liddel and Vitor Belfort. It was the very first MMA event on cable television in America in the year 2002. In the month of June, it was aired on the Best Damn Sports Show Period.
The critical event in the Zuffa era so far has been UFC 40. It sold around 150,000 pay-per-view buyers, which is amazing. 13,022 was a sellout of this particular event. It attained media attention as well especially from USA Today and ESPN. According to the referee of UFC, Big John McCarthy, UFC 40 was likely to be the turning point for MMA survival in sports of the United States of America However, there had been financial deficits faced by it despite the great and huge success of UFC 40. There were losses of $34 million by 2004.
The next step for Ultimate Fight Championship after pay-per-view was television. Fertitta brothers were favorable for it having reality series. TUF, a reality series approached different networks, all of which turned it down until they reach Spike TV. Offer by Spike TV was $10 million as cost of production. However, they had to find an outlet. Season 1 for it was launched in January 2005. It turned out to be a huge success and in fact, it somehow saved the future of UFC. The first season featured Stephan Bonar and Forest Griffin.
After the success of the first season, the second season was launched in August in the very same year. Following the year, 2006, there was a launch of the next two seasons. There were new seasons every year and in 2012, the show finally moved to FX. Ultimate Fight Championship Unleashed was also picked by Spike. The partnership of Ultimate Fight Championship with Spike came to end with a partnership between UFC and FOX in 2011.
UFC 52 was the first event after the success of TUF. It had a total pay-per-view audience equivalent to 300,000. For UFC 57 it was 410,000 and for UFC 60 in 2006 it was 620,000, for UFC 61 it was 775000, for UFC 66 there were 1 million buys. With so much popularity, there was a need for increasing the executive team for UFC. In 2006, UFC had a deal with Spike and it purchased WEC, World Extreme Cage fighting, and thus, it was easier for Zuffa to block International Flight League from Versus. Due to this reason, there was no violation of the contract. It acquired WFA in the same year. The popularity of sports captured the attention of the sports betting community as well and it came on the front cover of ESPN Magazine in 2007.
UFC gained more popularity in 2009 with UFC 90, 91, 92, 94, 98, and 100. Buy for UFC 100 was 1.6 million. Rising popularity captured the attention of ESPN for coverage of the match. There had been few injuries in the second half of 2009, which affected popularity somehow but it again gained momentum in 2010. Buys for UFC 114 were 1 million pay per view. UFC 116 had 1.25 million pay per view. Then there were UFC 117, UFC 121, and 129. Until now, the largest event of UFC in the history of North America is UFC 129, which had revenues of more than $11 million.
There had been a seven-year broadcast contract between UFC and Fox Sports, announced in 2011. This particular contract included four events, which were to broadcast on the main event on the Fox network. The first event of the television broadcast was the UFC on Fox: Velasquez vs. dos Santos. The seven-year contract between the UFC and Fox Sports would finally end in December 2018 with UFC on Fox 31 and would be at Fiserv Forum, which was the last event. After this event, there would be different channel broadcasting events for UFC. Viewers have increased over the years for it, which means that it has been gaining popularity with time such that there had been channels willing to sign the contract with the company. Initially, it was Spike, which led doors open.
According to ESPN in May 2016, there had been speculations that the main company of UFC is selling it for $3 billion to $4 billion but there had been no comments made on sale by White officially. However, there had been an official announcement in July 2016, according to which, it had to be sold to a group led by WME-IMG (Endeavor). Price was $4.2 billion. White remained president and he had 9% ownership with the company.
UFC has now a deal with ESPN and it is for 5 years. It will initiate in January 2019. The value for it is over $1.5 billion for linear rights and digital rights. On the main platform of ESPN, there would be 42 events. ESPN + will feature different events. It will also hold rights for on-demand rights of archived content as well as the library of UFC. There would also be White’s Contender Series. There would also be original and new content as well.