With UFC 112 scheduled to take place in Abu Dhabi in April, Dana White and Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta signified their ambition to cement their foothold in the Middle East and Asia when they announced that an Abu Dhabi-owned entertainment promotion company has bought a 10 percent share in the UFC.
UFC co-owner Lorenzo Fertitta told the Associated Press (via TSN.ca) that UFC has chosen Flash Entertainment, an investment arm of the emirate's government, as a strategic partner in its ongoing effort to build a global mixed martial arts brand.
He elaborated that numerous suitors -- including private equity funds, hedge funds, and media companies -- have come onboard with lucrative offers. Flash, a promoter known for bringing high-profile concerts and other events to the Middle East, ultimately won the bidding competition because the UFC brass sees in it a potential to accelerate UFC's growth in Middle Eastern countries, as well as in China and India.
"We made the decision early on that if we were to bring on a partner, it wasn't for financial reasons," Fertitta said. "We didn't need to raise any money, that wasn't the purpose. If we were going to bring somebody it was going to be with someone that could really be a true strategic partner and could help create an increased value for the company long term."
The terms of the deal remains confidential and neither Fertitta nor Ossama Khoreibi, chairman of Flash, would reveal what Flash paid for the newly issued shares in Zuffa LLC, UFC's parent company. With Flash's ten percent stake in the company, Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta will now claim 40.5 percent each. The deal also reduced White's share from 10 percent to nine percent.
Fertitta did not disclose what would be done with the money Flash invested or whether it would stay in UFC. A Forbes story in May 2008 estimated the UFC was worth perhaps US$1 billion: Fertitta said then that several investors have offered more than that for the privately held company.
The day-to-day operations at UFC would not likely change and Khoreibi simply wrote in an e-mail to AP that Flash's role will be to support UFC as it continues its global expansion.
UFC 112 will be the MMA juggernaut's first foray into the Middle East. The choice of Abu Dhabi for the inaugural event in the region is sensible, as the capital of the United Arab Emirates has been the host of the prestigious ADCC (Abu Dhabi Combat Club) Submission Wrestling Championship. UFC recently entertained members of the royal family at UFC 103 in Dallas in September.