Bring it on: UFC plans live fights across Europe, Asia
Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), the mixed martial arts promotion company, is planning to host live events across Europe and Asia in 2014 as part of a major global expansion, its founder and co-chief executive told CNBC on Tuesday.
Lorenzo Fertitta said UFC was the world's largest pay-per-view event provider, but was currently focused on the North American market - where he said it will clock up "well over" 6 million pay-per-view buys this year.
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"Right now the focus is the majority of our content is aired prime time in North and South America, which puts it at an odd time in places like Europe and Asia," he said. "In 2014 what we are going to do is expand the live events into major capitals around Europe in prime time, to build the business here and do the same thing in Asia."
The company already has almost 150 distribution deals across the world, and its content is broadcast in 28 languages. "We have taken a sport that has translated all over the world – because no matter where you go everybody understands fighting," Fertitta added.
The businessman, who owns 40.5 percent of Zuffa, the private company that controls UFC and helped the grow the business from a $2 million operation in 2011 to the $250 million company it is today, said a strong brand had been crucial to the business' success.
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"I looked at the fact that boxing had been around for hundreds of years and had generated billions of dollars, but had generated no brand, there was no value associated with the sport like there is with soccer and the Premier League, American football and the NFL, NBA and basketball," he said.
"So I felt with UFC, the brand Ultimate Fighting had really transcended the sport which is really called mixed martial arts – but we had a brand, something we could build off."
UFC's brand has helped many of the fighters become millionaires, Fertitta added, with big names taking between $3-5 million per fight, "depending on their drawing power."
—By CNBC's Jenny Cosgrave: Follow her on Twitter @jenny_cosgrave