Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta, the sons of a Las Vegas casino mogul, bought the Ultimate Fighting Championship in 2001 for US$2 million. Eight years later, the brothers sold just 10% of the company in a deal that valued the total property at US$2 billion.
Today, the UFC brings in US$500 million in revenue annually from its pay-per-view shows alone, according to Bloomberg. The U.S. remains the company’s largest market, but Canada, say company officials, is its most fervent. Thanks largely to the popularity of the UFC, a whole constellation of mixed-martial arts-linked businesses have sprouted up in this country in the past decade, offering everything from low-level fights to action figures and mortgages. Here’s a breakdown of who makes money on MMA in Canada, and how they’re doing it.
The UFC owns a chain of licensed mixed-martial-arts gyms in the United States (plus one in Australia). Former UFC champion Randy Couture owns his own collection of branded Xtreme Couture training centres, including a giant location in suburban Toronto. Hundreds of less prominent gyms now offer MMA training in Canada.
MMA gym memberships run upwards of $100/month.
The UFC earns millions every year selling sponsorship rights to major buyers like Bud Light, Harley-Davidson and Dodge. Smaller shows, too, rely heavily on sponsors to pay the bills. Aggression FC, an Edmonton-based fight circuit, has deals with companies including EllisDon construction and CanWest Concrete Cutting and Coring.
Pay-per-view is the UFC’s golden goose, and the main reason the company remains the only major player in the global MMA business. The company has reported more than one million pay-per-view buys—at about $50 each for standard definition and $60 for HD—but most cards sell closer to the 500,000 mark.
UFC’s annual revenue from pay-per-view shows estimated at $500 million.
The UFC sells its name to all kinds of products, including a video game by EA Sports, action figures by Markham, Ont.’s Round 5 collectables (for $49.99, you, too, can own a limited-edition likeness of referee Mario Yamazaki) and clothing for men, women and children.