You don't see many in-depth interviews with Zuffa CEO Lorenzo Fertitta, but when he does sit down with the media it's usually a very insightful, interesting read. So the interview conducted by Sergio Non of USA today with Lorenzo is must-read stuff.
While I have a deep appreciation for the impact that Dana White has had on the UFC's success, Lorenzo's role often gets overlooked and he represents a voice that I think is going to be much more important in the network TV era. His ability to express the same points as Dana without the seeming confrontational attitude is simply easier for many people to swallow but he still exudes a great degree of confidence and doesn't suffer from the same lack of personality that many complain about with a Roger Goodell type.
Some interesting parts of the interview:
Your co-owner Dana White says you're not mainstream. How much would you agree with that?
I agree. We have definitely carved out our market and our niche, but we are not mainstream. We've had a lot of success, but you certainly can't say, at least here in America, that we're on the level of an NFL or anything of that nature.
But the good news is we have room to grow. I think this is a platform -- a platform like Fox is what can get us there.
I think there's still a large group of media and large group of just what I'd call sports fans, casual sports fans, that maybe kind of know what UFC is, but they're not saying, "Hey, right now I have to be home to watch this fight." That's what we're hoping, is to bring millions more people in to see the UFC.
I know that we've had some controversy from some of the boxing promoters, like Bob Arum, saying we're stupid; why would we put the heavyweight championship on free TV; that's a stupid move.
The reality is this: Our model has been very successful for us, as far as putting our product on free TV to generate new fans, and that's the way we look at it. I'm not concerned about what our bottom line looks like in November; I'm concerned about what it looks like five years from now.
The whole idea is to draw millions of more fans into the group. If I can convert 100,000 of those millions that will be watching for the first time into customers for the next 20 years, then our investment on Fox has paid off.
This is, of course, the ultimate value to the Fox deal. Dana White isn't being quite accurate when he says they're losing money on the Fox shows. They're not making the same amount of money that they would off of a pay-per-view, but between the broadcast rights that Fox is paying and the live gate they're certainly not coming out in the red.
But they are serving as basically a commercial for future pay-per-views. Exposing fighters, getting fans hooked, it's all part of a larger strategy that should pay off down the road. And they're able to do it in a way which should result in actual monetary gains.
In effect, they're being paid to advertise their product.