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5 potential consequences of Endeavor taking full ownership of the UFC

Could the UFC
Could the UFC's future change now that Endeavor has taken full ownership of the promotion?
Scott Newman
SENIOR ANALYST
Modified 01 Apr 2021
Top 5 / Top 10

In an understated but potentially huge announcement, it has been confirmed that Endeavor, the company that purchased majority shares in the UFC in 2016, has closed a deal for 100% controlling interest in the promotion.

Endeavor bought 50.1% of the UFC from its former owners, the Fertitta brothers, in 2016. They have now managed to purchase the rest from a handful of private equity companies.

Could this mean big changes could be forthcoming in the UFC? Right now, we don’t really know, but it’s certainly possible in the near future. Here are five potential consequences of Endeavor taking full ownership of the UFC.


#1 More UFC roster cuts could be coming

Alistair Overeem was one of a number of big-name fighters recently cut by the UFC.
Alistair Overeem was one of a number of big-name fighters recently cut by the UFC.

A number of notable, big-name fighters have departed the UFC in recent months, with names like Alistair Overeem and Junior Dos Santos no longer part of the roster.

That was put down to the COVID-19 pandemic playing havoc with the UFC’s profits last year. While the UFC has been able to continue to produce events throughout the pandemic, obviously, all those events have taken place behind closed doors, meaning zero gate receipts.

So following the UFC’s total buyout from Endeavor, can we expect those roster cuts to slow down? In all honesty, it isn’t likely.

Endeavor lost a tremendous amount of money in 2020 – reportedly registering net income losses of $625m.

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Essentially, the UFC was the company’s only major earner in 2020, meaning that while they’ve been able to complete this buyout, they’re still hurting for money. And that could definitely mean curtains for the UFC’s longer-tenured veterans – fighters who earn big money but aren’t really part of the title picture right now.


#2 The UFC could become a public company

Following Endeavor
Following Endeavor's full takeover, the UFC is expected to become a publicly-traded company.

Ever since its inception in 1993, the UFC has been a private company.

Initially owned by the Semaphore Entertainment Group, the UFC was sold to the Fertitta brothers and Dana White under the Zuffa banner in 2001 and continued under that ownership till Endeavor’s buyout in 2016.

Now though, it appears that things are about to change once again.

Endeavor reportedly plans to become a public company rather than a private one, essentially meaning that shares in the UFC would become available for anyone to purchase via the stock market.

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So could this mean big changes for the UFC itself? Well, it’s definitely possible, particularly when you consider the changes a similar company – WWE – went through when it went public in 1999.

Which leads us to...


#3 Could this mark the end of Dana White as UFC President?

Could the UFC
Could the UFC's new shareholders want a less bombastic president than Dana White?

UFC President Dana White is one of the most divisive figures in the sport of MMA.

While some fans believe that the UFC would not be where it is today without its bombastic figurehead, many other fans are sick of White and believe that his attitude towards the UFC fighters is unacceptable for a top-level professional sport.

But since White became UFC President in 2001, he has essentially been untouchable. Trusted to the hilt by his childhood friends Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta, White has been allowed to say and behave basically whichever way he wants to.

That same trust seems to have been retained by Endeavor, with White seemingly more powerful than ever before right now. However, if Endeavor – and by proxy, the UFC – becomes a public company, could that change?

There are plenty of people – particularly fans in the corporate sector – who would love to see White replaced with a suit-wearing, clean-talking figurehead.

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Whether that would be as successful for the UFC is a massive question mark, of course. At the end of the day, like him or not, Dana White does understand the sport of MMA.

But if the UFC’s new shareholders were to demand a more clean-cut figurehead, then Endeavor may have to oblige – potentially ending White’s reign at the top of the UFC.


#4 There may be more consequences for fighters who step out of line

Fighters like Conor McGregor may not be able to step out of line quite so easily in a publicly-traded UFC.
Fighters like Conor McGregor may not be able to step out of line quite so easily in a publicly-traded UFC.

The UFC has never really been a place where every fighter is treated equally.

We’ve seen plenty of double standards over the years, with fighters like Jason High and Matt Lindland cut for seemingly petty reasons, while the likes of Jon Jones and Conor McGregor have been forgiven for plenty of serious transgressions.

In the UFC world, if you can fight well and you’re a big star who draws money, essentially, you’re untouchable. But would that still be the case if the UFC were to become a publicly traded company? Perhaps not.

With shareholders to answer to and potential corporate sponsors to keep on-side, incidents like Conor McGregor’s bus attack might not be as easy for the UFC to sweep under the carpet.

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That means even the UFC’s biggest stars might have to consider towing much more of a corporate line than they currently do.


#5 Elon Musk might have some wacky ideas for the future of the UFC

Could Tesla CEO Elon Musk become involved in the UFC?
Could Tesla CEO Elon Musk become involved in the UFC?

Perhaps the most interesting part of the reports surrounding Endeavor’s total takeover of the UFC was the fact that Tesla CEO Elon Musk has been nominated to join the company’s board of directors.

Musk is known as one of the world’s richest men, with a fortune of around $172bn to his name. But the South African isn’t just a regular billionaire. He’s also widely recognised as one of the world’s true eccentrics and has even reportedly planned to establish a colony on Mars at some point in the future.

So what could Musk’s involvement with the UFC look like? To tell the truth, nobody really knows. It could well be that Endeavor’s nomination of Musk onto their board of directors is simply a ploy to drive up interest in the company’s IPO.

However, if Elon Musk does take a major involvement in the UFC, could we see something as crazy as a UFC event from space in the future? You simply can’t count it out!

Published 01 Apr 2021, 23:40 IST
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