Is a sale of the UFC on the horizon?

Three and a half years ago, the UFC sold a 10% share of their company to the Abu Dhabi-based Flash Entertainment. It was the first sale of UFC equity since Zuffa bought the company nearly a decade earlier. But could another sale of a much larger piece of the company be on the horizon? It might not be as far-fetched as you think.

The UFC has a $425 million loan due in 2015. A Bloomberg post from last summer claims that the UFC makes $500 million per year in revenue, and while the Fertitta brothers (who each own 40.5% of the company) are billionaires, that's still a huge chunk of revenue that would be needed to pay the loan. Having some capital infused into the company via a partial or full sale could ease the burden on the company's current owners and not cripple the future financial flow of the UFC.

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There's the matter of the Fertitta-owned Station Casinos, which entered bankruptcy in 2009 but managed to exit two years later, Revenues for the first quarter of 2013 were down 2.0% from a year ago, and the company still has over $2 billion in debt due to long-term loans (though the Fertittas sold off a chunk of the company to escape bankruptcy).

As for the company itself, the UFC is seemingly plateauing a bit. The company has reportedly had seven pay-per-views crack 500,000 buys since the beginning of 2012, down from 13 over the 2008-09 time period and 15 over the 2010-11 time period. There's also a lack of marketable stars being built, as of those seven high-selling PPVs, all have involved one (or two) of Georges St Pierre, Anderson Silva, Junior dos Santos, or Chael Sonnen. With St Pierre dabbling in movies, Silva aging, and Sonnen's allure as a contender gone, there's not a lot of stars to carry the mantle. The UFC's cards on Fox, FX, and Fuel haven't really moved the needle since their debut either, though the UFC's presence on Fuel has at least prevented the channel from being a barren wasteland.

So who would be a logical buyer for the UFC? The immediate name that comes to mind is Fox. Viacom bought a majority piece of UFC competitor Bellator and is attempting to build them up the same way the UFC was built up in 2005 on Spike (it's not working so far). With the potential resources of the Fox machine behind the UFC, money and promotion wouldn't be a problem at all going forward. There would probably also be more motivation from Fox to position the UFC prominently as one of the seven pillars on Fox Sports 1, and that could force more mainstream media to accept the UFC as more than just a trend, and something that's here to stay.

Now, keep in mind that this is all hypothetical. If anyone pitched this idea to UFC president Dana White, he'd probably unleash a series of expletives in response along with descriptions of our current mental state. But everything seems to be sliding into place for something to happen with the ownership of the UFC, and I'd bet on it happening near the high water mark as opposed to when or if a freefall begins.

About Joe Lucia

Joe is the managing editor of The Outside Corner and a contributing author at Awful Announcing. He lives in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and is stuck somewhere between tolerating and hating Pittsburgh and Philadelphia sports.

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