When the global pandemic wreaked havoc on companies around the world, Endeavor – the parent company of the UFC – was no exception.
Originally a talent agency that has evolved over time into a global media company, Endeavor has collapsed under the weight of COVID-19. With Hollywood virtually shutting down, Endeavor, which owns sports ventures such as the UFC and Professional Bull Riders, lost nearly all of the company’s revenue-generating ability. But the UFC has served as a liferaft after UFC President Dana White defiantly vowed to get back into action faster than any other major sport on the planet.
White fulfilled his guarantee by bringing back live events a year ago, weeks ahead of other leagues like the NBA or NHL. But the UFC couldn’t just stay in the United States, where the restrictions associated with the pandemic were constantly changing and changing, not to mention the fact that there is a list of fighters who came from other countries where travel to the United States was not guaranteed.
According to Endeaver CEO Ari Emanuel, it was at this time that his friend Khaldun Al Mubarak, who is a partner in Abu Dhabi and an influential adviser to the de facto leader of the United Arab Emirates, Mohammed bin Zayed, called him.
Emanuel and Al Mubarak have been close for many years while Endeavor has attracted large investors from Abu Dhabi. But since the company was losing money during the pandemic, he pushed for a solution that would allow events to resume and generate cash flow.
It was then that Al Mubarak gave Emanuel the idea to move the UFC to Abu Dhabi for a long time.
“Khaldun said, ‘Why don’t you invite the UFC here? We will create a bubble for you, ”Emanuel told The New Yorker. “And then it all started.”
This was the beginning of what would eventually become Boyts Island, a cordoned-off section of Yas Island in Abu Dhabi filled with luxury hotels, a state-of-the-art arena, training facilities, restaurants, and every other possible convenience. The UFC, which also lowered any potential risk of a COVID-19 outbreak.
As the UFC continued to plan for a return to action, Emanuel reached out to his brother Ezekiel, a renowned bioethics and oncologist who served on President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 advisory board. Prior to that, he first advised his brother and sister on how to conduct activities during the pandemic after advising leagues such as the NBA on similar issues in the past.
“In sports, they are all lemmings,” Ezekiel Emanuel told the New Yorker. “Nobody wanted to be first. And so the UFC was first. Because there is a guy [in Dana White] who is not a lemming. “
After promoting several U.S. events in Jacksonville, Florida, White unveiled plans for Fight Island with a series of events in Abu Dhabi in July 2020. The first show was a real success when Kamaru Usman defended his welterweight title against Jorge Masvidal in a match. main event. Pay-per-view sales are reported to have reached over a million purchases.
White talked a lot about the total cost of running events on Fight Island. But according to a new report, it was in fact Abu Dhabi who took over after building the arena and providing “private jets, food, housing, testing facilities and medical personnel.”
Abu Dhabi also reportedly paid the UFC for each fight card “at rates that compensated for the lack of ticket sales,” which was a serious loss in promotion revenue.
The UFC continued to promote cards on Fight Island throughout 2020 and visited as recently as January with a series of events including Conor McGregor’s return to fight Dustin Poirier. White said the UFC will eventually return to Abu Dhabi this year, even if the restrictions are lifted and the promotion will start playing cards again with fans in attendance.
Thanks in part to Abu Dhabi and the UFC’s tireless efforts to organize events during the pandemic, Endeavor President Mark Shapiro called the promotion a “saving grace” for the company.
Now that Endeavor’s financials are back in order and production in Hollywood is booming again, not to mention the recent deal with the Writers Guild of America, the company is once again preparing for an initial public offering, which is expected to generate huge cash injections. estimates about $ 500 million received from shares.
(Editor’s Note: The Vox Media Union is represented by the Writers Guild of America.)