By Matt Kelemen | December 28, 2016 | Lifestyle
Wham-bam goes glam, with the UFC's new roster of Hollywood owners.
It took middleweight Gegard Mousasi less than five minutes to fell Mark Munoz in Germany in 2014.
Excited for UFC 207, Nunes vs. Rousey? So are a slew of celebs, as Twitter can attest.
In less than 15 years, Dana White and Station Casino executives Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta turned a $2 million investment in an ailing Ultimate Fighting Championship into the most successful sports venture in recent history.
In June, UFC was acquired for $4 billion by a group led by Hollywood talent agency WME-IMG, whose high-powered clients, from UFC enthusiast Conan O’Brien to Cam Newton, are now investors in mixed-martial arts’ preeminent organization.
“The opportunities that they are going to create for our athletes are limitless,” says UFC COO Lawrence Epstein. “WME-IMG represents the biggest stars in the world of entertainment and sports, and their core competency is in building stars.”
UFC joined a growing portfolio that includes the PGA, Wimbledon, and Professional Bull Riders, and WME-IMG clients such as Tom Brady, Anthony Keidis, and Rob Dyrdek have been visible at recent UFC events. “These celebrity investors give us the opportunity to reach their fan bases and expand the exposure of our brand on a global scale,” says Epstein. “Conan O’Brien has 22 million followers on Twitter alone.”
UFC’s global expansion has long been in the works, with events in twice as many countries for the fourth quarter of this year than in 2015. “As we look forward, we’re going to continuously put on great events while looking to expand to new territories like China and Russia,” says Epstein. “We’ve had a plan to expand internationally and now we’re going to just turbo-charge this thing.” December 30, MGM Grand Garden Arena
PHOTOGRAPHY BY BORIS STREUBEL/ZUFFA LLC/ZUFFA LLC VIA GETTY IMAGES