In 2016, Ari Emmanuel and the rest of WME-IMG acquired the UFC for a total of $4 billion. It is a transaction that former owners Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta wanted, even before the deal was finalized.
In a recent interview with the Short Story Long podcast, UFC president Dana White explained how they came up with the decision to sell the company to WME-IMG, despite other higher bidders.
“The scariest part during the sale was everybody that came in that was making offers to buy the UFC, the one stipulation was that I had to stay. So then I’m like holy sh-t,” White said (transcript by MMA Fighting). “The Fertitta brothers were like ‘listen man, you’ve got to stay’ and it’s not that I didn’t want to stay, who am I staying with is the question? Again a testament to the Fertittas, there were higher bidders than Ari. There was a company that was bidding $5 billion.
“I said I don’t give a f—k about the money but at the end of the day everybody gives a f—k about the money and the Fertittas absolutely cared about the money but they were cool enough and smart enough to realize that we need to match him up with somebody that it’s actually going to work with and Ari was the guy. Ari was absolutely the guy.”
White apparently was able to prove to himself that Emmanuel was indeed “the guy”, based on how their business relationship has been, so far.
“Now with Ari [Emanuel], he and I end up being perfect partners together,” White said. “It’s really cool. You think of a guy like Ari, if you watch “Entourage”—Ari Emanuel has no ego when he deals in business and he’s a f—king killer and I love that about him, too.
“For me to be able to have two perfect marriages in business is pretty crazy.”
White is greatly pleased by Emmanuel, particularly with the fact that everything’s been smooth-sailing.
“Ari is f—king awesome. He’s awesome,” he said. “He couldn’t have been a better guy to be the guy to come in with me again. You know how many arguments me and Ari have had in f—king almost the last four years? Zero. We’ve had zero. Zero arguments whatsoever.
“All the s—t with the banks, dealing with all the banks and all the s—t that’s involved now, Ari does all that. Cause that’s what Ari does and that’s what Ari is really good at. You know what him and the banks do? They let me do my thing. They stay out of the way and they let me run the business. It’s f—king great. It’s perfect.”
“The transition was completely smooth,” he added. “For two massive companies to merge like this, and have it run as good as it does now, it’s almost unheard of.”
In March, White signed a new seven-year contract as the UFC president, with the primary aim of taking things “to the next level.”