This is more of a fantasy of what I would be doing/thinking in Lorenzo Fertitta’s head although if I was Lorenzo Fertitta I would probably just waste several months laughing maniacally while rolling around in huge piles of hundred dollar bills. I don’t have Lorenzo’s education or bank account or charms and looks but for the purposes or pure fantasizing lets just assume that I’m not a complete doofus when it comes to international media business dealings.
4. How I would swim the international expansion waters.
Canada is a hotbed for the sport and expansion into England and Australia seems to be going fine but Japan has been a disaster and Germany a real headache. So here are my ideas on this one.
I’d hit Brazil rolling and open the expansion flood gates there. Sure it’s not a very wealthy country and while there are tons of fighters coming out of there the sport isn’t all that popular but there is real potential there too. Due to it being one of the classic homes for the sport and that it produces world champions at a fairly consistent rate there is a groundwork to build off of. The earnings return may not be all that high but this really is a low hanging fruit in terms of expanding the business not to mention the more popular the sport becomes there the more your talent pool increases. Another thing perhaps worth mentioning is that Brazil has a significant immigrant Japanese population (see: Lyoto Machida).
Why isn’t the UFC in Korea? MMA is well established there but it’s not as hard to break into for a company as Japan is. The UFC needs to get some feet on the ground in South Korea. They are starting to get some feet on the ground in the Philippines, China, India and South-East Asia but South Korea seems to really be the low hanging fruit waiting to be picked here.
The other big egg to crack is Japan but it’s so far proven to be close to impossible to get feet on the ground in. Instead of moving in to take over there perhaps Strikeforce had the right idea (although perhaps not the right partner). Get a partner in Japan and work through them to start getting a foothold. A brand like Cage Force that is using a cage and unified rules could be the type of partner they could deal with. Help a brand like that get the cage and the unified rules into the mainstream there and start to rebuild from the shambles left by the implosions of Dream and WVR and take a long term approach to trying to get UFC programming into something JMMA fans would want to view. If you can get a Japanese promotion some recognition over there then perhaps you can do with Strikeforce was doing and work some fighter exchanges and slip a bit more in that way. They aren’t ever going to be able to waltz right into Japan but perhaps they can use a JMMA partner to slip in the back door enough to at least be able to make some money off their broadcast there.
The other big markets are Europe and Japan. England is set but getting into Europe through Germany has been a mess. Perhaps a better way in to Europe and Russia is something similar to what I described for Japan. M-1 Global is full of crazy Russians and pretty much has been the poster boy for internet MMA head scratching for a while now but they are somewhat established in Europe. Perhaps instead of killing them with purifying fire they could be killed with kindness and a checkbook. Those guys would sell their souls to be the UFC well maybe they would sell majority ownership in their company so they could become UFC-Europe? Just a thought.
There is also kickboxing/MMA promotion It’s Showtime in Europe which could be an alternate idea for partnering up and getting seriously established there without out actually buying part of M-1 Global. Heck they may be a better way to go. They may not be as widely established as a fight promotion but they don’t seem to be as crazy as the M-1 guys and they have done some big time kickboxing events. The point is that now that the promotion wars are over perhaps co-promotion overseas isn’t such a dirty word anymore. Expansion may go better using assets already established in those areas.
Part 1: http://www.bloodyelbow.com/2011/5/14/2171429/fantasy-booking-the-business-side-of-zuffa-part-1
Part 2: http://www.bloodyelbow.com/2011/5/14/2171441/fantasy-booking-the-business-side-of-zuffa-part-2