For a man who has been reported on his way out of the company he built from a $2-million niche event to a $2-billion mainstream sporting entity in 15 years, Lorenzo Fertitta was highly engaged Tuesday in the daily activity of finalizing Saturday’s UFC 200.
“We need a song with ‘Crazy’ in it,” Fertitta said at his desk, helping coordinate the walk-in music for one of his undercard fighters, Juliana Pena.
In his most extensive public comments since reports emerged of a possible sale of the UFC to a group including talent agency William Morris Endeavor-IMG, a Chinese entity and the Robert Kraft family, Fertitta told the Los Angeles Times why he won’t divulge exactly what’s transpiring.
“Look, if we bring on an investor or something happens, we’ll let everyone know,” Fertitta said. “I sat here as I got back from the Fourth of July weekend and went through every piece, every second, of what’s been created for UFC 200.
“I’ve never been more bullish on the business. I still have massive love for the sport. I never said I was walking away.
“What’s happening — this is standard. Any company, this size and magnitude, you don’t talk about things you’re working on in strategical terms. So there’s nothing to report.”
Seated next to Fertitta, UFC President Dana White was slightly more forthcoming, wondering why an ESPN.com reporter who first broached an outright sale “has gone radio silent,” and calling another who said the sale would be finalized soon as “not credible.”
“I’m in Bangor, Maine [recently], and people are yelling at me, ‘Congratulations!’” White said. “I’m looking at my family, saying, ‘Most of the free world thinks me and the Fertittas don’t own the UFC anymore.’ It’s unbelievable.
“We own the UFC. We did not sell the UFC. We own it.”
And that’s a lucrative position to be in considering that with a talent-stacked card that includes the anticipated light-heavyweight title rematch between champion Daniel Cormier and former champion Jon Jones, the return of Brock Lesnar and the first women’s bantamweight title defense by Miesha Tate, UFC 200 at T-Mobile Arena could challenge UFC 100 as a record-selling event.
“The only thing that’s different now is everything we do is more magnified,” Fertitta said when comparing UFC 200 to the 2009 UFC 100. “That’s the good thing and the bad thing — now people care.
“There’s a lot of misinformation out there, things that aren’t correct. You’ve got to just roll with the punches. Stop getting on Twitter, stop reading social media. Get the distractions away, come in to work every day and work with the team and execute the plan. We’ve been working on [this] for five or six months … This is the fun part now because the hay’s in the barn. It’s just a matter of seeing it all happen.”
Since UFC 100, the company has widened its global expansion, adopted an effective anti-doping testing policy run by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, is poised to make its New York debut at Madison Square Garden in November now that mixed martial arts is legalized in the state, and its top fighters, including Ronda Rousey and Conor McGregor, have elevated mainstream media attention.
When Floyd Mayweather Jr.'s powerful boxing manager Al Haymon created his 200-fighter Premier Boxing Champions organization last year, it was reported Haymon modeled his business after the UFC.
Quite an affirmation for Fertitta, who had helped run his family’s Station Casino business in Las Vegas, and White, a former boxing trainer-manager.
White considered the strides and said, “One of the things I always say about Lorenzo, ‘A guy who doesn’t need to work this hard works this hard every day.’ He’s here in the morning, and here a lot later than most of his employees are at night.”
Any change including Fertitta didn’t appear imminent Tuesday, as he marveled at the duration of his friendship with White because, “Dana says all the time that partnerships self-destruct when things are going bad, but moreso when they’re going good.”
“With all the money and ego going around … ,” White said.
But that’s not happening now? White was asked.
“Not even close,” he said. “We just spent the Fourth together in Laguna.”