Much of the mystique of UFC co-owners Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta stems from the fact that we don’t see them cursing and making outlandish statements every day like their president and public face. Not that Lorenzo Fertitta’s statements are any less outlandish, but when he shows up to the occasional press conference or does the rare interview, we tend to pay a little more attention; clearly, the man has decided to speak because he has something important to say. In this interview with Kevin Iole of Yahoo! Sports, Lorenzo — ranked 380th on Forbes Magazine’s most recent list of the 400 richest Americans, with an estimated fortune of $1.3 billion — discusses the state of the UFC’s business and whether Dana White ever embarrasses him with his big mouth. We’ve gone and excerpted the best parts below.
On MMA being the country’s “fastest growing sport”: “A lot of people talk about the growth of MMA. I don’t believe in that. I don’t know where anybody can show me there is this great success in MMA outside of the UFC. There has been explosive growth for the UFC, but MMA in general, nobody is making a breakthrough. The biggest non-UFC pay-per-view, you might know better than me, but it’s something like 25,000, maybe 30,000 buys. There is a bit of a misnomer there. It’s not the growth of MMA. It’s the growth of the UFC.”
On the differences in fighter pay between boxing and MMA: “You have to understand that the UFC has a completely different business model than boxing. We are in a situation where we’re not only the promoter, but we pay for all of the production, where as in boxing, the promoter doesn’t pay for any of that stuff. HBO or the network does. We pay for all of the advertising and the marketing. If you’re a boxing promoter, you don’t do that. You don’t come out of pocket. Boxing promoters take no risk up front. They get guarantees from the venue and from the networks, so they take no risk. We underwrite the entire thing…The boxing way is to take a short-term approach, but we’re focused on the long term, both for the brand and for the sport.”
(Ed. note: Again, the dude has amassed a $1.3 billion personal fortune, so the profit margins can’t really be that thin. It’s hard to defend accusations of exploitation when some fighters are still making three grand to fight in the Octogon, while the owners are literally billionaires.)
On Dana White: “Bottom line, and I’ve said this before, but I don’t think anybody could have accomplished what Dana has. It took somebody like Dana who’s got street smarts, who doesn’t pull punches, who speaks his mind, who never bull(expletive), to do this. At the end of the day, if we had taken a Harvard MBA and hired him in 2001 to run this company, we’d probably be bankrupt right now. (Ed. note: Well sure, those Harvard boys couldn’t run a TCBY franchise. Go Bulldogs!) There are so many things that are unconventional about this business. This isn’t something you can read about and learn in a textbook. This is a business where, day-to-day, you have to be on the ground and you have to be on top of your game. Dana is that guy. I truly believe that Dana was put on the Earth to run the UFC.”