The big event –- UFC 100 –- will take place this weekend in Las Vegas. With that in mind, UFC president Dana White joined me on CNBC this morning to talk business.
Darren: Last time we talked, you said business was up 20 percent in the first quarter. The tickets sold out (to UFC 100) before it hit the general public. What’s your confidence as to the number of pay-per-view buys?
White:Well, not only did we sell out in an hour and a half before we had a public sale, but we’ve sold out closed circuit at the Mandalay Bay and we’ve opened up another one over at the MGM now for closed circuit. All of our polling right now is showing we’re going to do well over a million buys for this fight.
Darren: We know you scored nice blue chip sponsors –- Bud Light , Harley-Davidson, Burger King . We saw a report that UFC was going to charge sponsors $100,000 every six months to sponsor UFC fighters. Is this legit and if it is what is this about?
White:We have this sport right now where guys, fighters, can actually get different sponsors. I have the ability to tell them no. So rather than tell these guys no because we have a sponsor that would be the same, we’re working this thing out where guys (companies) end up just paying us a certain percentage and then they can sponsor whoever they want.
Darren: The last champion that everyone was introduced to was Chuck Liddell -– I think it was UFC 71 –- when he hit mainstream, all over the place, and then he lost. Your current champ is Brock Lesner, fighting tomorrow. He came from the WWE, and he’s a huge part of UFC right now. How important is it for Lesnar to win tomorrow for the UFC?
White:That was one of the things that I was really worried in the beginning when I first started with this thing. Chuck Liddell was really our only big, legitimate star in the beginning. We have so many stars now from Brock to George St. Pierre to Forrest Griffin, I could go on for ten minutes telling you about huge pay-per-view stars that we have. We fixed that and built the business and created a lot of stars here on the UFC.
Darren: Unlike many sports, you still have a great growth story to tell. I know you’ve been pushing out that you think that UFC is going to be bigger than soccer in 10 to 15 years in worldwide popularity. What’s your greatest fear in the business?
White:Well, I can tell you right now, for this coming event Saturday, we’re going to be in 75 different countries in 17 different languages. We’ll have it on free TV down in Mexico. Over 300 million people can watch this even this weekend. My biggest fear is time. As fast as this thing is growing, we don’t have – there isn’t enough time in the day. You have to sleep. Other businesses have to shut down and go to sleep at night. If it wasn’t for, you know, time, we would grow a lot faster.
We didn’t get it in, but Dana wanted to add that there’s a UFC viewing party ($30) for those who are in the New York City area at Radio City Music Hall tomorrow night.
Questions? Comments? SportsBiz@cnbc.com