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Lorenzo Fertitta discussing the impending UFC boom in Brazil

By Zach Arnold | August 25, 2011

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LORENZO FERTITTA: “I made a stop in Amazonas to meet with the city of Manaus and the overwhelming [support] that they want us to come there, they think they can fill 100,000 seat stadium for an event. José Aldo is from that region of the country. It just feels like the entire country’s excited that we’re here.”

ARIEL HELWANI: “There are a lot of fans who have been talking us saying, ‘why has it taken the UFC so long to come back here? The last event was in 1998.’ Do you have an answer for them?”

LORENZO FERTITTA: “Well, look, we had a lot to do in the United States and Canada and in Europe and other parts of the world. When you come into a country like this, you know, it took time to set up business development and make the right relationships and things like that. In addition to that, we’ve really only been on free-to-air TV here for about two years. Before that, we were on a subscription channel that didn’t have that many subscribers but now we’re kind of reaching the masses. The fight on Saturday night between Anderson (Silva) and Yushin (Okami), we’re expecting between 20-to-30 million people to watch it on free TV so it’s a big event.”

ARIEL HELWANI: “Has that been sort of the business approach here to try to get it on free TV and if you didn’t get it on free TV then it wouldn’t have been accepted this well, that first you need to sort of expose it to the masses and then go into the pay scale?”

LORENZO FERTITTA: “Exactly, it’s no different than what we did in the United States. I mean, there was a direct correlation between us being on Spike, right, and having that kind of broad audience watching, learning about the UFC, getting to know who the fighters were and that’s the model we’re following all over the world as we can. Brazil’s a perfect example, Australia’s another example, and now it’s even more exciting because in the U.S. we’re going to have Fox which is an even bigger platform. So, yes, that’s part of the strategy to grow the sport.”

ARIEL HELWANI: “Any kind of ideas as to what kind of economic impact in terms of tourism and all that stuff that [UFC 134] will have on the city of Rio?”

LORENZO FERTITTA: “We think it’s going to be similar to Toronto. Toronto was between a $40-50 million dollar economic impact. I mean, who knows? It may even be more. We’ve got a ton of people traveling from the U.S., from Europe, of course from inside Brazil, the majority of the people coming to Rio are from Sao Paulo. So, we’re filling the hotel rooms, we’re filling the restaurants. You can just kind of feel the buzz around town already.”

ARIEL HELWANI: “It seemed to me, and correct me if I’m wrong, after the Vitor Belfort win for Anderson Silva his stock in Brazil rose exponentially maybe because of Vitor and how famous he is here. But he’s got this Budweiser deal, a bunch of other deals, would you agree with that?”

LORENZO FERTITTA: “It’s unbelievable. He’s had an absolute meteoric rise since that fight. It was like the entire country stopped to watch that fight. There were people billowing out of bars, there were obviously people in their homes, it did a huge rating and it’s almost like the country now has this hero that they’re embracing at the same scale as a Ronaldo or some of the big soccer players. I mean, he’s getting Nike, he’s getting Burger King and massive sponsors, so… I mean, he even told me it’s kind of surreal because he can’t walk outside of his house. He literally can’t go to the grocery store, he can’t do anything, so his life has changed permanently since that February fight.”

ARIEL HELWANI: “Dana said in July that he was surprised at how uneducated the press was here about MMA. What’s been your take with the way the press has covered this event?”

LORENZO FERTITTA: “Well, I think that’s true. I think the broad mainstream media, no different than the U.S. or some of these other countries, they really don’t understand MMA that well so it’s taken them a little bit longer to embrace it but as with anywhere else, the fans are behind it. So, it’s more of a groundswell and now they’re starting to see, hey, we got to get behind this thing because this is a big deal, they see what’s happening here in Rio.”

ARIEL HELWANI: “Has there already been some talk that you’re going to return to Brazil and that it’s on the schedule next year? Is that true?”

LORENZO FERTITTA: “Yeah, we haven’t laid the schedule out completely. We think we can come back here maybe four times next year, maybe it’s two big shows, maybe it’s a couple or three Fight Night shows, really showcasing some of the younger Brazilian talent here. There’s so many fighters from Brazil that, you know, we want to come down here and be permanent. We don’t want to have a situation where we just come in and then we leave for two years, you know, we want to have an ongoing business here.”

ARIEL HELWANI: “I think I just heard the entire United Kingdom scream in anger. ‘They’re going to come here four times and what about us?!’ How do you sort of map that out?”

LORENZO FERTITTA: “You know, part of the issue is that we’ve struggled, not with the popularity in the U.K., I mean we have a huge fan base, we do very well with selling tickets there but we’ve had a hard time getting a television deal that makes sense for us. So, we’ve got to move our business around where it makes the most sense. And we’re not in any way abandoning that. We’re coming back to England in November, we’re going to have multiple dates in Europe next year as well. So, it’s just trying to balance, you know, where supply and demand is.”

Topics: Brazil, Media, MMA, UFC, Zach Arnold | 5 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

5 Responses to “Lorenzo Fertitta discussing the impending UFC boom in Brazil”

  1. 45 Huddle says:

    I’ve noticed Fertitta has been putting himself out there a little more lately….

  2. 45 Huddle says:

    The crowd is red hot for the UFC weigh-ins. Cheering the Brazilians and big booes for the Americans.

    Brazil really is perfect for the UFC because they can do live shows without the time delay much like Canada.

    It’s really looking like the big 3 go to countries for the UFC will end up being USA, Canada, & Brazil.

  3. edub says:

    I know it’s not meant to come across this way, but does this statement strike anyone else in the US as a slap to the face.

    The UFC spends so much time getting on Free TV everywhere else. It’d be nice to see some more “free” shows here.

  4. edub says:

    Zach: You catch that Flair is looking to sue over the part about Alcoholic Cardiomyopathy in that Grantland article?

  5. […] the same marketing model that they did in Rio and expecting it to work in Japan is asinine. As Lorenzo Fertitta told Ariel Helwani a couple of weeks ago, UFC was able to prime the Brazilian market by having an over-the-air television deal in place. […]

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