UFC BUYS PRIDE FC - UFC acquires Pride Fighting
UFC BUYS PRIDE FC
UFC ACQUIRES PRIDE FIGHTING
The majority owners of Ultimate Fighting Championship have agreed to buy their biggest mixed martial arts rival, Pride Fighting Championships, in a deal that will establish megafights among the outfits' titleholders and possibly attract huge pay-per-view audiences.
"This is really going to change the face of MMA. Literally creating a sport that could be as big around the world as soccer. I liken it somewhat to when the NFC and AFC came together to create the NFL."
-- Lorenzo Fertitta, one of UFC's majority owners
Company executives declined to comment on the sales price, but a person familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press that brothers Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta will purchase the Japan-based Pride for less than $70 million. The person was not authorized to speak to reporters and spoke on condition of anonymity.
The deal was completed Tuesday and was announced during a news conference in Tokyo, where Lorenzo Fertitta has been negotiating with Nobuyuki Sakakibara, the majority owner and chief executive of Dream Stage Entertainment Inc., Pride's owner.
"We have been talking to Pride for probably about 11 months," Lorenzo Fertitta said. "It's been a long, drawn-out process but we finally were able to put the two brands together."
To buy the company, the brothers created a new entity called Pride FC Worldwide Holdings LLC. The newly formed company will take over Pride assets, including its trademarks, video library and valuable roster of fighters, from Dream Stage. The Fertitta brothers, who own Las Vegas-based Zuffa LLC, the parent company of UFC, intend to keep the well-known Pride name and promote fights under that brand.
The acquisition marks a new phase in the brothers' quest to dominate the burgeoning world of mixed martial arts since they bought the struggling UFC in 2001.
"This is really going to change the face of MMA," Lorenzo Fertitta said. "Literally creating a sport that could be as big around the world as soccer. I liken it somewhat to when the NFC and AFC came together to create the NFL."
The deal allows the Fertitta brothers to broker the biggest MMA fights possible in the near future, increasing their influence in this sports entertainment business.
"We will be able to literally put on the fights that everyone wants to see," Lorenzo Fertitta said. "It will allow us to put on some of the biggest fights ever."
In the past, there has been at least one case in which Pride and UFC couldn't hammer out a deal to put their top fighters in the ring together. With Pride in their pocket, the Fertitta brothers intend to ensure that never happens again.
The sale gives Pride more financial backing to expand the business internationally after suffering a recent financial blow.
Major sponsor Fuji Television Network Inc. dropped Pride in June after a tabloid linked Pride to the Japanese mob -- something Sakakibara has denied vigorously. To help bolster Pride, the company staged two PPV fights in Las Vegas. Neither was a financial success. The fights gained exposure for Pride but lost money, making the sale of Pride more likely.
"I think it certainly weakened their position," Lorenzo Fertitta said. "One of our goals is to get back on a major platform back here in Japan."
Lorenzo Fertitta said he'll be looking to expand Pride internationally.
Buying Pride is the latest in a series of acquisitions that the brothers have made in the last six months. Zuffa snapped up World Extreme Cagefighting and World Fighting Alliance last year.
Similar to Pride, buying WFA gave UFC the rights to a popular fighter named Quinton "Rampage" Jackson. Jackson will face UFC's most popular fighter, Chuck Liddell, the current light heavyweight champ in Las Vegas, on May 26 on PPV.
In the combat world, the Pride deal leaves a fragmented group of upstarts and K-1, another Japanese company that promotes fighters skilled in various forms of kick boxing.
Thanks to a surge in popularity, the brothers' investment in UFC and MMA in general has begun to pay off.
Last year, UFC cracked $200 million in PPV revenue, putting it on par with World Wrestling Entertainment Inc.
UFC stages fights in arenas across the country and airs a clutch of successful television shows on Spike TV. It has also opened an office in London, looking toward establishing itself internationally.
The brothers also run Station Casinos Inc. in Las Vegas. Lorenzo Fertitta is president and Frank Fertitta is chairman and chief executive of Station Casinos, a public company that was recently agreed to be purchased by a private equity investor group that includes key members of the Fertitta family.
CONFERENCE CALL TRANSCRIPT
Question: Can you explain what will Pride and the UFC look like after this?
Dana White: They are going to be completely separated. The UFC will run separately from Pride. Most of the employees are still in place at Pride and we are going to continue to run them as competitors and two separate entities.
Question: But there will be mega-fights and fighters and champions (from the UFC and Pride) going against each other at some point?
White: That's what we are talking about. Obviously, there is a lot that needs to be worked out. What we would like to see, finally, is the Super Bowl of mixed martial arts where we could, finally, line up all the guys in all the different weight classes to fight each other and see who the best in the world is. We'd do that once a year. We don't know exactly how that will be done, yet. But that's what we are thinking about doing.
Question: Can you explain to us how difficult and how complicated these negotiations were? Have they been ongoing for a long time?
Lorenzo Fertitta: Mr. Sakakibara, if you would like to, feel free to chime in. We've had a relationship with Dream Stage Entertainment and Mr. Sakakibara going on about six years. While certainly we have been fierce competitors at the same time we respected each other as both the premiere organizations in the world for mixed martial arts. About 10 months ago we started talking about some type of strategic alliance that we could put together that would assure the future of MMA because as everyone knows there are a lot of newfound competitors with really no experience and no history and they are trying to jump into this sport. UFC and Pride are really the foundation of the sport and we believe by entering in this transaction and coming together there really is no No. 3, 4 or 5. These are clearly the two best organizations in the world and we are going to put on mega-fights that are going to take mixed martial arts to the next level. Mr. Sakakibara.
Nobuyuki Sakakibara: I have the same feelings.
Question: Will Pride mainly be in Japan or will they continue to have cards in the U.S. and would the UFC go to Japan? Will there be any geographical separation?
White: We'll do both. We'll do shows in Japan. We'll do shows in the United States. The UFC is going global. We'll be in Japan and everywhere else also.
Fertitta: Expect Pride to be global as well. That's the reason for the name, Pride Worldwide.
Question: There are slight differences in the two brands. Do you think they will continue to go the same route or do you anticipate making changes to Pride?
White: Pride will be the same. Pride is going to stay Pride and UFC is going to stay UFC. The only difference is everyone is going to get to see all the fights they've wanted to see for years, the big mega-fights.
Fertitta: The reality is UFC is very much an American-centric product. Pride is a very Japanese-centric branded product and that's the way we intend to keep them.
Question: I guess my last question is there anything else left to buy.
Fertitta: No. Because nothing else matters.
Question: When UFC purchased the WEC, it said it would run that as a separate entity, but it still brought over some fighters like Quinton Jackson. I was wondering if that was going to be the same thing here. If so, are there going to be any of the Pride fighters coming to the UFC?
White: Quinton Jackson isn't in the WEC, he's in the UFC. That was when we purchased the WFA. The WFA was dead and it wasn't a good show anyway. We shut that down and rolled some of the fighters over to the new company. Pride and the UFC are the two biggest and best organizations in the world with all of the best fighters in the world. This is a dream come true for fans.
Question: Will any Pride fighters become UFC regulars?
White:No. I mean, the Pride fighters are Pride fighters and the UFC fighters are UFC fighters. But I don't know. To answer that question honestly, who knows? Some guys get cut and end up somewhere else. You never know what's going to happen long term. But right now, the guys that are in Pride are staying in Pride.
Question: Having competition for the fighters. If there is competition for the fighters' services, you tend to have more people and better athletes don't you?
Fertitta: No. The reality is there is plenty of competition to go around. As I mentioned before, there are new promotions starting every day, which we're happy with because essentially what that does is creates a breeding ground that will eventually feed both UFC and Pride. At the end of the day, if you are a world-class fighter and you want to fight the best and you want to go against the best competition, you are going to eventually want to fight for UFC or Pride. So, I'm really not concerned about that. I think we've seen through the beginnings of "The Ultimate Fighter" show the ability for us to cultivate new talent. We've actually been pretty successful.
White: Guys are making more money now than they ever have. It's only going to get better now that Pride and UFC are together.
Question: I understand what you are saying, but my question would be now there are no competitiors for your fighters is that going to slow that train down.
Fertitta: There still will be a certain level of competition between a few companies going out and trying to sign fighters and who is going to fight for what company. I don't see that slowing down.
Question: You talked about this Super Bowl, but a lot of fans are interested in would you ever have Fedor (Emelianenko) fight Randy (Couture) on a regular UFC card? Would you think of that or would they remain separate until some Super Bowl?
White: I don't know the answer to that, yet. Obviously, Fedor is the Pride heavyweight champion and randy is the UFC heavyweight champion and if we were going to do that Super Bowl-type fight, that would be one of them. I don't know. I don't see us pulling Fedor over for one fight. I think it would have to be a Super Bowl-type fight.
Fertitta: Really what this does, a lot of people see the problems with boxing where you never see the best fight the best and certainly in the past because there was the different ownership with Pride and UFC that prohibited certain fights from happening. Now, we are basically going to see the best fight the best. We are going to give the fans what they want.
Question: Dana, what does this mean for you being the president of the UFC. Are you going to be the president of both Pride and UFC and continue to be the face and spokesperson for the sport?
White: No. Somebody else is going to run Pride. I'm going to go over to Japan with my guys and kick all of their (butts) like I've been waiting to do for years.
Question: What about the differences in the rules? When you do have that Super Bowl, which rules are going to win out? Does it depend on the country that the fight is taking place in?
White: We are going to follow the rules of the Nevada State Athletic Commission. What we've wanted all along, seriously us and Pride were very close. It's the same game of soccer that we play in the United States and it's the same game in Japan and England and Brazil. That's what we want for mixed martial arts. So we will follow the rules of the Nevada State Athletic Commission and the unified rules in the United States.
Question: Will we continue to see international fighters on the reality show "The Ultimate Fighter"?
White: I don't know. Maybe, we do "The Ultimate Fighter" in Japan or a Pride Fighting show.
Question: One question about the venues. I know that Pride is usually sponsored by Caesars and you guys are usually sponsored by MGM. Is that going to change? Are you going to open it up to more venues in Vegas and also do you see you guys getting sanctioned in New York state?
White: We're definitely going to get sanctioned in New York. We're working on that, right now. I don't know if Pride stays at Caesars or not. It depends on the deal.
Question: When you have the Super Bowl fights, will that unify the belts? How will the belt structure work when you have Pride and UFC fighting each other?
White: It's one of those things in my opinion why this thing is so great, when fighters fight, obviously, the money is great and the fame an everything that goes along with it, but at the end of the day it's about their legacy. Pride and the UFC have the best fighters in the world in all weight classes. Finally, we are going to find out who is the best fighter in the world. Whoever wins that fight will be looked at as the best heavyweight, the best light-heavyweight, the best middleweight in the world and possibly one of the best pound-for-pound of all-time. I think that is really what is going to come out of this. The fans win. Both of the organizations win. The fighters win.
Question: But there won't be just one heavyweight champion between the two of them?
White: It would still be a guy that would be the UFC champion and the other guy would still be the Pride champion.
Question: So, ultimately the public would make the decision?
White: Whoever would win. It's almost like when Pride has their Grand Prixs. They have their heavyweight champion and their Grand Prix winner and they have a fight between those two down the line.
Question: When will we see this first mega-fight?
White: That, we don't know.
Question: UFC is known for its marketing. Will we see Pride reality shows and pride magazine shows and things like that?
White: Anything is possible.
Question: What ultimately is going to be the biggest change from the way we see Pride, now?
White: I think the only change you'll see in Pride is you'll see pride against UFC once a year or whatever it is. All the employees that ran Pride before are still in place. It's going to look the same. It's going to feel the same. They will still go out and acquire international talent. Everything is going to be the same other than the fact that we will be able to put on mega-fights.
Question: Can you guys release the details of the cost of the transaction, etc.?
White: Nope. How much it cost?
Question: Someone said earlier that it was 10 months ago when this idea first came about. Whose idea was it and what was the reaction from the other organization?
Fertitta: Initially, what it was, and Mr. Sakakibara feel free to chime in here, but we had a dinner about 10 months ago to talk about the business and the future of MMA. We talked about the fact that the fans weren't getting to see essentially what they wanted. We wanted to put together a plan to figure out how we could deliver the best product to the fans. We actually had dinner at the Italian Restauant at our casino, the Red Rock Casino. We talked for a couple of hours and that was the beginning of our discussion. I don't know if Mr. Sakakibara wants to chime in here, but that's essentially how it started.
Question: When you guys realized that this whole thing was feasible, what was the reaction, what did you guys think?
Fertitta: It really took a lot from both sides for both parties to give and not be selfish on either side to really make this happen. It really took both parties, really staying focused on what the goal was, and that was making history. This is a history-making event. These two organizations coming together, and we are going to be putting on events that are going to blow people's minds."
Question: So you won't be buying Pride fighters' contracts? Pride fighters will remain Pride?
Fertitta: Well, no. I mean, all of the assets of Pride, including the fighter contracts, are being acquired. They are just going to be run as separate companies.
Question: I think earlier you said this was being done to insure the future of mixed martial arts. Can you elaborate on that?
Fertitta: I don't know how literal that is as far as the future of mixed martial arts. I think what I meant by that was the future of mixed martial arts, because of this combination, is going to be bigger and brighter. What we've created here is a global platform. The UFC is, obviously, very successful in North America. We're venturing out to Europe, to the U.K. where we haven't even had our fight, yet, and we've had a tremendous amount of success based on the initial ticket sales. The buzz is happening there. Now, by combining and bringing Pride in, which is a dominant player in Asia, it's really given us a true global platform. Now, the UFC will be able to enter Asia in a much more competitive way as well as we, obviously, know how to market in North America which will benefit the Pride brand. From Day One, the next Pride event that happens in North America is going to be huge. We have the platform. We know how that works. So, it's really allowing both brands to grow in a faster and more successful way instead of butting heads along the way.
Question: What impact will this have on the IFL?
White: The IF Who? The IFL has their own problems. The IFL is impacting the IFL. I don't even think of the IFL. We bought Pride today. The last thing I'm thinking about is the IFL. Pride and the UFC are the two biggest and most dominant organizations in the world with the best fighters in the world. All these other guys are No. 10 and 12.
Question: What kind of reaction have you gotten from some of the UFC fighters about the up-coming fights?
White: Not only the UFC fighters, but the Pride fighters. Like I said earlier, it's about cementing your place in history and the way you do that is by fighting the best fighters in the world. The questions have been out there for years. Who is better? The Pride fighters in their respective weight classes or the UFC fighters. And now everybody is going to find out. In some cases, some of the Pride fighters are going to win and some of the UFC fighters are going to win. What they do is cement their place in history, going down as the greatest fighters in their weight classes. It's a tremendous opportunity for everybody.
Question: Do you plan to implement the same weight classes as the Nevada State Athletic Commission in Pride?
Question: Will Pride remain in the ring or take place in a cage?
White: Pride is not going to change at all, not one bit other than the fact that they are going to fight some UFC guys once a year, maybe.
Question: How about the rules in Japan?
White: We said that earlier too. It's going to be the unified rules.
Question: So that's a change?
White: That's not a change. Pride fights under the unified rules in the United States.
Question: How about drug testing in Pride?
White: They have drug testing now. They just had drug testing when they fought in Nevada.
Question: Will you allow elbows in Pride?
White: Unified rules.
Question: Will that be a yes or no to elbows, which weren't allowed in (Pride's) Las Vegas (events)?
Question: What are your thoughts on Japanese television and its return to Pride?
White: We are very confident that we will be back on Japanese television, possibly Fuji TV, but we're very confident.
Question: What are your thoughts on the proposed alliance from some of your competitors such as K-1, EliteXC, BodogFight, Strikeforce and Cage Rage?
White: Which one of those is our competitor?
Question: All of them are having a press conference today at the L.A. Coliseum?
White: Yeah, that's scary.
Question: You mentioned that most of the pride employees have remained intact, but there has been an exchange of words between Pride president of production Jerry Millen and yourself. I'm curious to know what that tenor of that relationship is?
White: I don't know. No comment.
Question: I wanted to ask about the concept of these superfights? What's your thinking? Is it strictly UFC champion vs. Pride champion and is it only once a year and where do you see this happening?
Fertitta: This transaction has just taken place. We don't have all the details and particulars worked out. We need to sit down and strategize. Ultimately we want to put together the matchups the fans want to see. They will ultimately dictate what happens.
Question: When do you think it will happen?
Fertitta: I think it will happen fairly quickly. There is a certain path that both companies have put in place for their fighters. Those are going to have to take place. For instance, Georges St. Pierre is fighting for his title, Diego Sanchez against Josh Koscheck, then we have England. Pride has its fight scheduled. We'll have to see how soon these things pan out. It's hard to predict. That's thing about MMA. After those two events happen, we'll have a better idea. Right now, we don't know who are the winners and losers and who will be in a position to fight whom. One thing I do know is both entities have the best fighters in the world and there will always be a combination that we can put together that makes sense.
Question: What about the site?
White: The thing is Japanese have been wanting to see this and so have the Americans. So we can go back and forth. We cane do one in Japan and one in America. We can do one in the ring and one in the Octagon. It's all the stuff we have been talking about for years and dreamed about and now can finally happen.
Question: (Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer) Hi guys and congratulations on the deal. On the judging criteria, are you going to use the 10-point must system or is Pride going to keep its standard for its shows?
Fertitta: We were going to ask you questions since you know more about our business than anyone else. Sorry, what was the question.
Question: On the judging criteria, are you going to go with the 10-point must system or is pride going to stay with its standard of scoring and rounds?
White:I think Pride is going to stay the same and when we do these mega-fights we'll figure out exactly how we are exactly going to do it.
Question: What is the status of Fedor because there are stories that he might be going with Bodog? Is he signed with Pride?
White: He is signed with Pride. We're still figuring out all the details of that deal. We'll do everything we can to keep the Pride heavyweight champion intact.
Fertitta: The reality is if Fedor wants to fight the best fighters in the world, he's going to want to fight with us.
Question: Do you guys have any kind of plans to upgrade the Pride television in the U.S. for future Pride shows in the U.S.?
White: I think there are people in the U.S. that like Pride the way it is. Pride isn't the UFC. It's different. That's what makes it Pride.
Question: I'm talking about a new TV deal because I don't think Pride on FSN is going to be a big success in the U.S, without a new TV deal? And they were talking about doing 5-6 events this year in the U.S.?
White: We're going to look to make Pride bigger in the U.S. We'll do whatever makes sense for the business.
Question: What's your thoughts on tournaments? I don't think you cane do two fights in one night in Nevada, but that's a pretty popular thing in Japan?
White: That's a good question. I don't have an answer for that. There are a lot of things that we don't exactly know how they are going to work, yet. But as far as Pride, Pride is going to stay Pride.
Additional discussion can be found here:
Hopefully creating one large near monopoly in the sport will not cause more problems than seeing all the anticipated matches is worth.
I actually think this is a great leap for MMA. If only they modified the rules to make it more realistic. I could understand things like no groin kicks/eye gauges. But no elbowing? No kicking someone when they're on the floor? Come on now...
So far so good, I hope everything everything Dana claimed is true.
what a shocker. Never imagined this would happen, but I think it will be interesting. I'd like to see Pride fighters vs UFC fighters. I'm thinking Pride fighters are gonna whoop some ass and I'd like to see how bad they do it.
Just what we needed! The best of the best fight show taken over by Dosy do dancing cowboys whose idea of a fight is to push a man against a fence and elbow him until his eyebrows split thus giving some girl fighting state commisioner reason to stop the fight because there is blood on the floor. Im going back to watching Pancras.
Awesome. I cant wait to see what happens.
Oh, and BTW it's Pancrase. And as far as I know Pancrase doesn't strike with a closed fist, another ***** rule.
The Feritta family paid $70million dollars for pride? Seems like they are doing rather well out of the fighters, perhaps they should get a pay rise.
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