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Where Are They Now? — A Brief History of Zuffa Buying Its Competition

(“The world, chico. And everything in it.”)


The more I think about it, the less faith I have in it. “Business as usual” seems to be the motto for the UFC after their historic purchase of Strikeforce. It came as a surprise to all of us when Ariel Helwani held the mic under Dana White’s chin to reveal an acquisition that made many MMA fans’ stomachs tie themselves into knots.

Some fans reacted positively to Zuffa’s latest splurge, citing that the best talent would now be under one roof and that all the fights we have been dying for can finally come true. Older fans like myself were more than skeptical; we had seen this before and we knew the chances of this situation being any different were as slim as Gina Carano making weight for a fight on her first attempt.

Let’s take a quick jump into the way-back machine and look at the previous transactions of Zuffa and see what has happened to other companies that were scooped under its umbrella, starting with their most important purchase…

Zuffa buys the UFC – 2001
Station Casino owners Frank Fertitta III and Lorenzo Fertitta joined forces with young entrepreneur (and former aerobics-instructor) Dana White in 2001 to make a purchase that would end up changing the course of sports history. White convinced the Fertittas to buy the assets to the UFC, which in 2001 was still black-listed from television and seemingly on its last legs.

Bob Meyrowitz, owner of the UFC, along with Semaphore Entertaintment Group, sold Zuffa the rights to all of the intellectual properties of the UFC for $2 million. At the time, it was a risky investment at that price, but now, it’s more than a bargain. Nonetheless, Zuffa pushed on and begun the battle to legalize MMA around the country and get the sport back on pay-per-view. They finally returned to PPV with UFC 33, which turned out to be disastrous, as the show cut off during the main event.

The company pushed on and began to find success with stars like Tito Ortiz, Chuck Liddell and Randy Couture. Things took a turn in the right direction in 2005 when Spike TV aired the first season of The Ultimate Fighter. The reality show introduced a whole new audience to the sport (for better or worse, to many hardcore fans), and opened up opportunities that were once unfathomable for the company. With ‘UFC’ quickly becoming the household name for MMA, it was time for the strategic acquisitions to begin, along with the rest of our sordid tale.

The WFA Purchase – 2006
The first company to be devoured was The World Fighting Alliance, which was originally run by former UFC fighter John Lewis. The WFA was one of the first officially sanctioned MMA shows in the state of Nevada, and initially ran shows in Las Vegas nightclubs. This plan did not work too well, and the company was thought to have gone extinct in 2005.

Instead, a new batch of investors came on board, and in 2006 the WFA ran their comeback show, titled “King of The Streets.” The pay-per-view event was headlined by Quinton Jackson against Matt Lindland, and the comeback fight of Bas Rutten, who had not fought since he won the UFC heavyweight title at UFC 20. The show was enough of a success to warrant a sequel event, but plans were changed on December 11, 2006, when Zuffa acquired the assets of the company and select fighters contracts.

Who were those fighters? Well, the most notable at the time was Quinton Jackson, whose WFA appearance was his first since his long stint in Pride FC. The UFC also grabbed a young Lyoto Machida, as well as Martin Kampmann, Marvin Eastman, and Heath Herring to name a few of the 30 contracted fighters who were up for grabs.

Who was not absorbed by the UFC? Number one was Matt Lindland, who has had a tense history with Zuffa since 2005. Other fighters who were on the outs included Ricco Rodriguez, Jason “Mayhem” Miller and Bas Rutten, although Bas returned to retirement after his comeback fight. The UFC also acquired the WFA tape library, which was used to promote Jackson’s UFC debut but has never been seen since then.

When you look at the history of Zuffa’s future purchases, the WFA seems like a drop in the bucket. Most speculated that the company was acquired solely to gain Jackson’s contract so they could eventually promote a rematch with Chuck Liddell. Another motivator was probably that Pro Elite was slowly on the rise and the UFC wanted to prevent them and Showtime from joining forces and becoming competition.

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Cagepotato Comments

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JoLo1- March 29, 2011 at 10:29 am
Can anyone seriously say that fans of MMA are worse off after these business deals?

I can never understand how people can say these deals are bad for MMA fans. I can see how it sucks for the fighters, but having every good fighter under one promotion is awesome for fans. I know I only have to worry about ordering one PPV per month and I get to get see unquestionably the best fighters in the world. how is that a bad thing?

Please Cagepotato, i'd love for someone to write a well thought out article on why this Strikeforce deal is bad for fans specifically.
Jonny5- March 28, 2011 at 10:52 pm
Good for fans bad for athletes. Look at it this way only top 15 LW in the world not fighting for UFC or has a fight scheduled in Strikeforce next (Gilbert Melendez #2, Shinya Aoki #4, and Tatsuya Kawajiri #7) is top 5LW Eddie Alvarez. Scheduled to fight Pat Curran next who even with his 4fight win streak and win of season 3 BFC tournament can't be ranked above the Guida's, Guillard's, Henderson's, Siver's, and Sotiroupolos' of the LW world. If for no other reason than win 4 in a row against Olivier, Ricci, Huerta, and Imada (ufc never-beens and has beens) will never equal what the 5 middle of the pack contenders in the UFC are facing. anyways still looking forward to the BFC show this weekend as on top of E. Alvarez we got us a WW semifinal tourney fight which I'm finding myself interested in this year esp. cause of the inclusion and quarterfinal win of Hieron. This is just looking at the what this most recent aquisition has done to one divs. future fight potential as far as top talent goes. I mean I for one could of waited for Edgar Maynard 2 and rather seen Edgar Melendez 1 for a belt unification. LOL ... that wouldn't b business as usual though would it?
MMA Mafia- March 28, 2011 at 8:37 pm
I think the UFC will eventually be the only MMA company/pros/ MLB, NFL, ect. Competion is great but think about it in the same context of those other sports. What if we never got to Brady vs Manning because they were in different organizations. Think of college and the CFL like being regional shows where only the best get drafted to the NFL. See how most of their players are really good. A few of the problems in the UFC is they do need a union to protect the fighters. They bring in way to much money to be paying any fighter regardless of record 2G's to fight. Plus as much as Dana White has done for our sport (...and we salute you) he is not good for growth at this time. He's great at promoting and making money but my problem is if he doesn't like you for whatever crazy reason he won't let you fight in "his" company or sport. No man should have that much power. I gaurantee Roger Goodell hates some of his players but he can't do shit because of the unions and contracts.
Dojima- March 28, 2011 at 5:09 pm

Not really a doom and gloomer, I just like having a wider variety of show styles, and ultimately more products to choose from.

You cant say you would love to have Mike Goldberg call for every MMA show ever, now can you?
Tai-Pan- March 28, 2011 at 3:23 pm
Good Article. Also thanks for that general info agentsmith, you just saved me some talking out of my ass.
agentsmith- March 28, 2011 at 3:19 pm
@ Crap Factory:
Don't blame ticket prices on the UFC, they're not out of the norm. Far from it, in fact. The bushleague shows here in Ontario seem to think they can charge top dollar. The first MMA event in Ontario is some shitty no-name show at a local casino, and tickets are $60-$200. MFC 29 coming up in Windsor is $80-$290. UFC 129 is $55-$828, presuming you could get a ticket at all. UFC 130 in Vegas is $85-$840, and the TUF 13 Finale is a hilarious $170-$410. Meanwhile, "Strikeforce: Diaz vs Daley" is only $29-$204. Bottom line, Strikeforce is your best value, but you can generally get into a UFC show for the same price as the bushleages... or at least in Ontario.
ArmFarmer- March 28, 2011 at 3:07 pm
I didnt see anything in that article that indicates zuffa buying promotions is a bad thing. What are they going to do.. Put on shitty ppvs because theres no competition? If you combine the rosters of ufc, ifl, pride, wec, elite xc, and strikeforce and then cut all the shitty fighters.. How could you put together a weak card even if you tried?
smiledriver- March 28, 2011 at 2:25 pm
I would love on Gina Carano so hard. This chubby Gina hate for sheez. I say this mostly because I can think of a clever way to tie in Gina Carano and Mary Eliazbeth Mastrantonio's Gina from Scarface with the subject matter in the article such that I win a free T-shirt. XXL so Gina can wear it after the deed...y'know?

RwilsonR- March 28, 2011 at 2:24 pm
@ dojima, and all the doom and gloomers - I've been going to live UFC events for nearly ten years, and the cheap ticket prices have only gone up by $20 in that timeframe despite the increased success. I get that it might be harder to come by some tickets (say, in Montreal, or somewhere like that), but I still haven't experienced any trouble getting tickets in Vegas or SoCal. And the list of promotions compiled in this article would be a list of failed promotions whether Zuffa bought them or not.
mt59801- March 28, 2011 at 2:20 pm
I was a huge Pride fan, but the things that made PRIDE good would never work with a US athletic commission. A 15 minute round, knees to the head of a downed opponent, and the grand prix, if a top 10 fighter got the yellow card now they'd probably be suing the refs,judges and UFC to get their 10% back. IFL was fun to watch, but the team concept was a little strange and did nothing for me since most of the top fighters have always been on teams. The buyout of SF was a good thing for MMA! I'd hate to think that anyone's first impression of MMA would come from a guy who wears more eye shadow than a 15 year old girl on her way to the mall, and an alleged fight fixer with braces and an out of control ego.
RwilsonR- March 28, 2011 at 2:17 pm
@ Fried Taco - I can't help but picture that statement coming out of Macho Man Randy Savage's mouth. OH YEAHHH!
Hesh to Steel- March 28, 2011 at 2:13 pm
I don't really think that ticket prices to live shows really plays into the whole "Zuffa buys everything" discussion. But that's just me.
Fried Taco- March 28, 2011 at 2:06 pm
@RwilsonR - You mean like, damn, Gina Carano stole my Slim Jim! Again!
RwilsonR- March 28, 2011 at 2:03 pm
I never thought I'd see the words "slim" and "Gina Carano" used in the same sentence again.
BurritoBrosShits- March 28, 2011 at 1:29 pm
Can someone elaborate on Bas' beef with Zuffa before he retired again? Has to have something to do with money right?
Crap Factory- March 28, 2011 at 1:21 pm
That should say live, not liver. Apparently my liver is still mad at me for the punishment I inflicted on it this weekend.
Crap Factory- March 28, 2011 at 1:20 pm
It won't be long before the average guy who wants to see a liver MMA event will not be able to because of outrageously high ticket prices.
Daddy_jeffy- March 28, 2011 at 1:11 pm
@ Phantom151
Maybe first to watch that gay Armani Jeans ad in the right corner...
Dojima- March 28, 2011 at 1:10 pm
Strikeforce will be swallowed up by the Zuffa monster, and maybe it will crap out a few products here and there. Largely, Strikeforce will be a fading memory once those "contracts" are up.
Fried Taco- March 28, 2011 at 12:56 pm
I miss the IFL. We would go watch great fights live without spending too much money, and have a great view. Much better than being crammed into a huge auditorium and still having to watch the fight on the big screens to really see anything.
jimbonics- March 28, 2011 at 12:54 pm
Pelican Fly! Come on, Pelican!
Fried Taco- March 28, 2011 at 12:49 pm
phantom151- March 28, 2011 at 12:39 pm