Lorenzo Fertitta is one of the driving forces behind the success of the Ultimate Fighting Championship. After purchasing the promotion for two million dollars in 2001 and then injecting another 44 million into the company, the UFC is now worth something to the tune of one billion dollars.
At forty-one years of age, Fertitta is on Forbes magazine’s list of youngest billionaires in the USA. The Las Vegas casino owner figures among Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Yahoo’s Jerry Yang, and Google’s Larry Page and Sergey Brin. That’s how he caught the attention of Valor Econômico, one of Brazil’s leading economics magazines. Fertitta among other things addressed the reason’s behind the organization’s worldwide success.
“Most sports don’t translate too well into other cultures. But when you put two guys in a ring and let them use any fighting style they want, that anyone can understand,” he says.
The purchase of the event at the time in the doldrums was motivated more by the passion for the sport than for any belief in it as a lucrative business. One of the first steps taken was to give MMA a makeover, changing its image by introducing rules, among other things.
“My brother (Frank) and I practiced Jiu-Jitsu and knew some fighters,” says the businessman, who goes out of his way to disassociate MMA and violence:
“Blaming MMA and the UFC for some people’s violent behavior is the same as blaming Formula 1 for the imprudence of some drivers on the road,” he says, drawing a simile between two globally-popular sports.
With the changes made and investment, the UFC now prospers, whether in pay-per-view sales, trademark products, television shows or tickets sales.
“In the United States we already have three times the pay-per-view sales boxing does.”
Where will it end?