NEW YORK NY - JANUARY 13: Lorenzo Fertitta UFC Chairman and President speaks during a press conference to announce commitment to bring UFC to Madison Square Garden and New York State at Madison Square Garden on January 13 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Michael Cohen/Getty Images)
Bronx Bombers? Pfft. More like pipsqueak pea-shooters.
Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is the world's most valuable sports franchise, worth upwards of $2 billion and far ahead of the New York Yankees (MLB), Dallas Cowboys (NFL) and even Manchester United (MLS).
That's according to UFC co-owner Lorenzo Fertitta (via New York Times), who ten years ago was writing payroll checks from his own personal checking account.
Them days be over.
"I feel pretty comfortable saying we’re the most valuable sports franchise on the planet, more than Manchester United, more than the New York Yankees, more than the Dallas Cowboys."
And it's only going to get bigger if Fertitta can make good on his promise to "take this thing worldwide" in the coming years.
One of the biggest concerns heading into the 2012 fight campaign is over-saturating the market. Pay-per-view buys, the core of the Zuffa business model, are down for 2011.
Reasons for the decline include a fan base adept at video piracy. But more than that, some fight cards simply are less appealing than others, and this year one of the U.F.C.'s biggest draws, the heavyweight Brock Lesnar - a former pro wrestler - has been battling diverticulitis instead of opponents. The welterweight champ, Georges St-Pierre, has fought only once because of injuries. The U.F.C. galaxy needs more stars and less dark matter.
The promotion's debut on FOX, scheduled for tomorrow night (Nov. 12, 2011) at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California, is expected to kick-start the brand's extension into the mainstream market and introduce new fans to the product.
And simultaneously re-invigorate old ones.
The FOX network deal, valued at $100 million dollars across seven years, will also unveil a revamped "Ultimate Fighter" franchise that may have grown stale in its current format on Spike TV.
The wheels are in motion.
If the UFC is worth $2 billion today, what will it be worth in 2015? 2020?
Time will tell.