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UFC’s Dana White Eyes Las Vegas Fights (EXCLUSIVE) – Variety



Leisure conglomerate Endeavor’s combined martial arts enterprise took a success final week with the cancellation of the UFC 249 pay-per-view and all different upcoming struggle playing cards because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Nonetheless, UFC president Dana White says that the corporate has discovered a technique to transfer ahead with its reside promotions.

“We constructed the APEX facility subsequent door simply in time to save lots of the day from this pandemic,” White stated in an electronic mail assertion to Selection Tuesday night time. “Stay fights shall be produced out of there beginning subsequent month and for the foreseeable future.”

The UFC’s APEX facility is positioned in Las Vegas, Nevada, subsequent door to the group’s headquarters. It formally opened final yr and is touted on the UFC’s website as a “130,000 square-foot manufacturing” hub with “an enviornment area.” White stated in an interview with ESPN earlier on Tuesday that the UFC was planning a struggle card for Might 9 however didn’t disclose the place it could happen.

Like many U.S. states, Nevada is at the moment below a stay-at-home order that has shuttered all non-essential companies. That order was initially issued on March 12 and was extended to April 30 by Gov. Steve Sisolak final week. In line with a person with data of the state of affairs, the UFC is anticipating these restrictions to be eased inside the coming month to permit for occasions to happen and not using a reside crowd current. White can be considered one of a number of sports activities govt chosen by President Donald Trump to advise the White Home on how to reopen the U.S. economy.

Even when Nevada doesn’t work out, the state of Florida could have supplied the UFC with a lifeline. Florida governor Ron DeSantis just lately declared in a memo that skilled sports activities can resume manufacturing within the state in the event that they happen in a location closed to most people. WWE has already been given the greenlight to renew tapings at its privately owned Efficiency Middle in Orlando — clearing the best way for the UFC to start working within the state below the same association, ought to it select to take action.

The potential Nevada enterprise comes slightly below 4 years after Endeavor acquired a majority stake within the UFC in a landmark deal valued at $four billion. However with all fights in limbo for the foreseeable future, how good is that $four billion funding wanting?

“Let’s not neglect all of the negativity about Endeavor once they purchased UFC,” White stated in his assertion to Selection. “Media stated Endeavor overpaid; that I made a lot cash on the sale that I gained’t care or be centered; that we are able to’t get a TV deal; and so forth. However the reality is since Endeavor acquired UFC, we’ve seen progress in each space. In 2019, we had the perfect yr within the historical past of UFC. Sponsorship, Licensing, shopper merchandise, and media revenues hit all-time highs. The ESPN deal doesn’t even occur with out Endeavor. We constructed the APEX facility subsequent door simply in time to save lots of the day from this pandemic. Stay fights shall be produced out of there beginning subsequent month and for the foreseeable future. The entire enterprise has been on a killer run since these guys obtained concerned. Don’t ever guess in opposition to Endeavor.”

An Endeavor spokesperson declined to remark for this story. Representatives for the Nevada governor’s workplace didn’t instantly reply to Selection‘s request for remark.

Windy Dees, affiliate professor of sport administration on the College of Miami, tells Selection that it’s too quickly to say if the Endeavor-UFC deal has paid off, particularly with the pandemic upending all sports activities in the USA.

“I sort of equate that buy on the time to purchasing a home on the peak of the market,” Dees says. “They actually purchased when UFC was having its greatest yr, arguably. They’ve had some struggles since then and have been sort of up and down, so we’ve but to see the profitability of that. I believe UFC shall be profitable for them in the long run.”

The UFC’s recognition was rising exponentially on the time of the Endeavor deal, with the struggle promotion rising to new heights since. Of the highest 5 highest pay-per-view purchase charges in UFC historical past, three of them have taken place for the reason that Endeavor deal.

Dees additionally doesn’t fault White for trying to cost forward with occasions, given that each professional sports activities league is searching for methods to get occasions again on the air.

“The NBA can be speaking about internet hosting video games within the Bahamas in a gymnasium someplace, so all these executives are placing on their promoter hats proper now making an attempt to get sports activities again in entrance of individuals,” she says. “All of them undoubtedly have {dollars} on the mind.”

The cancellation of upcoming UFC struggle playing cards, and certainly all reside occasions, couldn’t come at a worse time for Endeavor. The corporate, nonetheless smarting from the scuttling of its IPO late final yr, has additionally seen its core company enterprise by way of WME dry up because the nation grapples with getting coronavirus below management.

“That they had all these artists working to pay down money owed they’ve taken on by means of these acquisitions,” one expertise agent tells Selection. “Now none of these artists can work so that cash has dried up.”

Endeavor had practically $5 billion in money owed on its books, in accordance with monetary filings from across the time of its IPO. Below the UFC’s present seven-year cope with ESPN and Disney, the MMA group stands to obtain greater than $500 million if it will possibly mount 42 occasions all through 2020. All 12 annual UFC pay-per-views and round 20 different UFC Struggle Night time Occasions air on ESPN Plus along with Dana White’s Contender Sequence.

The ESPN deal, first signed in 2018 and prolonged in 2019, has confirmed profitable to date, with trade insiders saying that UFC is the main subscription driver for streaming providing ESPN Plus. UFC occasions on ESPN’s linear channel averaged 1.1 million viewers in 2019, a 43% enchancment over reside occasions on FS1 in 2018, in accordance with Nielsen information.

White has gone to nice lengths to maintain the occasions alive, together with shifting them to a resort and on line casino on Native American tribal land in California, which might have allowed the UFC to work across the state’s stay-at-home order. That plan was ultimately scrapped after White stated he acquired pushback from top-level executives at ESPN and Disney. White has additionally acknowledged quite a few occasions now that the UFC is working to safe a non-public island on which it will likely be in a position to stage fights in a transfer out straight out of a kung fu film or “Mortal Kombat” sport.

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