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UFC boss says Abu Dhabi sale will advance global expansion

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The Canadian Press
1/12/2010 10:38:38 AM
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The UFC sold off a chunk to an Abu Dhabi company to speed up its world expansion plan, according to president Dana White.

"UFC has no financial issues and business has never been better," White told www.ufc.com. "We did this deal because of the huge opportunities it provides for UFC's global growth."

Flash Entertainment, a live events company based in the United Arab Emirates and owned by the government of Abu Dhabi, has acquired a 10 per cent stake in Zuffa, the UFC's parent company.

"We got to know these guys discussing an event in Abu Dhabi," said White. "This led to the investment conversation. After conducting in-depth due diligence, they saw the tremendous global potential of the UFC brand. The guys who run this company are young, hip, aggressive visionaries. They are big thinkers."

White, whose ownership in the UFC drops to nine per cent from 10 per cent, said he had no concerns about bringing on another partner.

"I don't look at this as my baby and nobody else can touch it," he was quoted on ufc.com. "The way I look at this thing is that the UFC is a brand, like Microsoft, McDonald's or any of these other ones. I think that I'm going to have a certain amount of time here and then my time will be done and I will have done my part. And then somebody else will carry it on after me. I don't look at this like I'm going to be here forever. A lot of people say `without Dana the UFC couldn't do this or couldn't do that.' I think the UFC is bigger than that and bigger than one person, including me."

According to The Associated Press, Flash's buy-in means co-owner Lorenzo Fertitta's 45 per cent stake in Zuffa has dropped to 40.5 per cent. His brother, Frank Fertitta III, also drops to the same amount.

In 2008, Forbes estimated the UFC's worth at US$1 billion. Esquire just estimated White's worth at $200 million.

Not bad considering the brothers bought the ailing UFC in 2001 for $2 million. They poured more than $40 million into it, almost selling it before it turned around.

While the UFC flourishes, the Fertittas have a pending bankruptcy case with Station Casinos Inc., where Frank Fertitta is chairman and CEO and Lorenzo Fertitta is vice-chairman.

Citing a November report issued by Moody's Investors Service, the Las Vegas Review Journal says Zuffa has US$450 million in debt. But Moody's also said Zuffa has the income to make its debt payments.

Formed in August 2008, Flash Entertainment has brought a variety of entertainment to the United Arab Emirates, from Andrea Bocelli and the Killers, to the Capitala World Tennis Championship.

The UFC tentatively plans to hold a show in Abu Dhabi on April 10 and entertained members of the royal family in Dallas at UFC 103 in September.

The UFC has already held shows in England, Ireland and Germany and heads to Australia next month. Taking the sport global has been the UFC's major push in recent times, with Lorenzo Fertitta leaving the casino business to spearhead the push overseas.

NOTES -- Middleweight Jorge (El Conquistador) Rivera says he is fighting Nate (The Rock) Quarry on March 31 in Charlotte, N.C. The show will likely be an Ultimate Fight Night... Hours after losing to Canadian Rory (The Water Boy) MacDonald, veteran welterweight Mike (The Joker) Guymon says he got home to California to find out his beloved Great Dane Bishop had died.

Dana White (Photo: GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images)

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(Photo: GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images)
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