Update 8:35 AM PST: Title correction to reflect proper name of IMG-WME.
In a surprise news release published by the New York Times and distributed on MSN earlier Sunday evening, credible sources have confirmed that the UFC is expected to announce (as soon as Monday the 11 of July) that they have sold the majority stake in the company to IMG-WME. While it’s been no surprise that the Fertitta’s have long since sought to cash in on their original investment in the UFC only recently has the appropriate price point been met with an interested buyer. And though this will undoubtably be great news for the Fertitta’s financial portfolio, the question remains what does this truly mean for the UFC as a brand and more importantly as a sport.
IMG-WME is most well known as a talent and celebrity management agency. (UFC star Ronda Rousey is apparently one of their clients.) While they have a great deal of experience in negotiating mutually equitable arrangements for their services towards their clients they have only recently begun the move into sport league management, with a recent purchase of “Professional Bull Riders”. However many MMA purists might find this marriage to be anything but kosher. While it might seem that the talent agency would be an ideal fit to renegotiate contracts for for athletes who’ve classically condemned the practices of the UFC’s “less than stellar” compensation arrangements, IMG-WME has stated they will not be getting involved with that aspect of UFC business. (At least not just yet.)
One of the most challenging aspects of promoting a fight is making the audience care about the outcome. It’s easy to reel in fans when two behemoth legends go toe-to-toe in the octagon but it’s not quite as seamless when you throw in a newly anointed champion. Regardless of how well they defeated the prior champ, the new champ always has much to prove and unless a rematch is made with the loser contesting the win then fans are sometimes less likely to be interested.
The UFC has been addressing this with aggressive expansion into international territories, where stars like Collin McGregor brought in an entirely new breed of followers from Ireland. They have also made notable investments in Asia though those markets are highly competitive and haven’t yet yielded the star power the likes of a Ronda Rousey or Colin Mcgregor have brought.
What will this purchase mean for the UFC and it’s fight roster? Only time will tell, but do share your opinions with us in the comments section!