|Type||Limited liability company|
|Founders||Frank Fertitta III
|Headquarters||Las Vegas, Nevada, USA|
|Key people||Lorenzo Fertitta
(Chairman & CEO)
|Owners||Frank Fertitta III (40.5%)
Lorenzo Fertitta (40.5%)
Flash Entertainment (10%)
Dana White (9%)
Zuffa, LLC // is an American sports promotion company specializing in mixed martial arts. It was founded in January 2001 in Las Vegas, Nevada by Station Casinos executives Frank Fertitta III and Lorenzo Fertitta to be the parent entity of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) after they purchased it from the Semaphore Entertainment Group. Lorenzo Fertitta is the company’s CEO and Chairman while Dana White runs the day-to-day operations. Zuffa is co-owned by Fertitta brothers (40.5% each), Dana White (9%) and Sheik Tahnoon of Abu Dhabi (Flash Entertainment) (10%).
Zuffa is universally credited for turning around the UFC and increasing the status of mixed martial arts in the United States from one with a limited audience and regional competitions to a multi-million dollar enterprise with millions of viewers and internationally popular events.
- 1 Relationship with MMA organizations
- 2 Relationship With Non-MMA Organizations
- 3 MMA regulation
- 4 Insurance policy
- 5 See also
- 6 References
Relationship with MMA organizations
International Fight League
Throughout the existence of the International Fight League (IFL) between 2006 to 2008, both Zuffa and the IFL had competed in a hostile relationship. Zuffa accused the IFL of and sued them for illegally using proprietary information obtained by hiring executives from the UFC organization. The IFL responded with their own suit claiming that Zuffa was threatening potential partners not to work with the IFL, including Fox Sports Net (a deal with Fox Sports was later signed before resolution of the suit). The tension between the IFL and the UFC worsened with accusations that the IFL had attempted to buy out several top UFC fighters.
In July 2008, there were reports of the IFL's possible purchase by the UFC. That same month, Joe Favorito, former IFL senior vice president, cited financial troubles for the closing of the company on July 31, 2008. Anonymous sources stated that Zuffa had bought the IFL. Other reports cited the UFC's airing of IFL footage on its programming, and the signing of previous IFL fighters, as an indirect confirmation of the purchase.
On December 11, 2006, Zuffa acquired the assets of the World Fighting Alliance, and formed WFA Enterprises, LLC. as a subsidiary to handle these assets, including select fighter contracts. On the same day, it was reported that Zuffa was formalizing plans to buy World Extreme Cagefighting, to be run as a separate promotion from the UFC.
Following the purchase of the WEC, Zuffa made several changes to the promotion. This included modifying the WEC's cage, transferring to a focus on lighter weight classes, giving it the ability to host events in Las Vegas and having the championships of fighters who were contracted UFC fighters vacated.
Pride Fighting Championships
On March 27, 2007, it was announced that Frank Fertitta III and Lorenzo Fertitta were acquiring the assets of Pride Fighting Championships, the UFC's largest rival, from Dream Stage Entertainment. To handle the take over, the Fertitta brothers created a new corporate entity to handle the assets, Pride FC Worldwide Holdings LLC. With common ownership in place, Zuffa and Pride Worldwide would be working closely together. Although goals of reviving Pride were not realized, many of Pride's assets, including contracts with fighters and intellectual property, are now regularly utilized by the UFC.
Early Relationship (2008–2010)
However, White did express in an interview that he had a mutual relationship with Strikeforce founder and CEO, Scott Coker, explaining that Coker is caught up in his battle with Showtime.
2011 Acquisition and Beyond (2011–Present)
On March 1, 2011 Scott Coker was noted for dismissing rumors of a pending sale to Zuffa as "crazy." Coker, went onto explain that Strikeforce was searching for "strategic partners" and that there were at least two (some reports say three) potential investors, but that "the UFC is not one of them." One of the potential investors has been documented to have been ProElite.
However, on March 12, 2011, it was announced in an interview between Dana White and journalist Ariel Helwani that Zuffa had purchased Strikeforce. The deal was made between Zuffa and partial Strikeforce owner Silicon Valley Sports and Entertainment. The amount of money involved has not been officially disclosed, however it has been reported that the deal was worth $40 million.
Sources have confirmed that Scott Coker attempted to not sell Strikeforce to Zuffa. However, Coker ultimately failed and agreed to sell Strikeforce's licensing rights, fighter contracts, and video library to Zuffa on March 10 or 11th.
On March 28, 2011, Scott Coker was noted for saying that he felt that acquisition would be good for the sport of mixed martial arts. This is in contradiction of his original resistance of selling Strikeforce to Zuffa.
Relationship With Non-MMA Organizations
On January 12, 2010, Zuffa sold a minority interest in the company to Flash Entertainment. The company announced the completion of a deal in which a 10-percent interest in the company to the Abu Dhabi government-owned Flash Entertainment. With the sale, company ownership would be 40.5 percent held by Lorenzo Fertitta, the company’s CEO and Chairman, 40.5 percent held by his older brother, Frank Fertitta III, 10 percent by Flash Entertainment and 9 percent by Dana White. Flash Entertainment was formed in 2008 by the Abu Dhabi government’s Executive Affairs Authority.
In December 2010, Zuffa filed a lawsuit against video game publisher Ubisoft, for what they claim is a violation of trademark on the game, Fighters Uncaged, packaging. On the packaging of the game the trademarked term, "Ultimate Fighting" is shown in all capital letters. Zuffa claimed that the use of the term is identical or confusingly similar to the use of the UFC's trademarks. While Ubisoft failed to provide any comments on the lawsuit, by August 2011 the two companies announced the dissolution of the lawsuit.
In January 2011, Zuffa filed a lawsuit against Justin.tv, for what they claim was a massive illegal viewing of UFC 121 among other events. As of March 2012, the lawsuit is still on-going and Justin.tv has had some of the charges dismissed partially because the site itself cannot be entirely held responsible for the particular uploads under scrutiny.
Lone Survivor Foundation
Cleveland Clinic Brain Trauma Study
In February 2014, Zuffa was one of number of major combat sport promotions to support a major brain trauma study that was being conducted by the Cleveland Clinic.
The current rules used in the UFC were first established by the New Jersey Athletic Control Board in 2000, in consultation with the UFC and other MMA promotions in the United States. The first UFC event under the new rules was UFC 28, held before Zuffa's takeover. New Jersey's Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts has since been established throughout the country by other state athletic commissions, including Nevada and California. The UFC has however kept close ties with state commissions, especially the Nevada State Athletic Commission, of which Lorenzo Fertitta was a former board member.
On May 9, 2011 it was announced that Zuffa would be providing year-round customized insurance coverage for any injury suffered by a UFC or Strikeforce athlete.   The policy covers any injuries that occur during competition, training, and non-training related accidents.
The details of the policy include:
- The policy covers all athletes signed by the UFC or Strikeforce.
- The policy covers athletes residing both within and outside of the United States.
- Zuffa will pay for all premiums for the policy, and athletes will not be required to pay anything.
- The policy allows athletes to use up to $50,000 in annual coverage for any injuries that occur while under contract to Zuffa. This includes services such as, doctor services, laboratory tests, emergency medical evacuation, and physical therapy.
- The policy covers athletes regardless if they are scheduled to compete.
- The policy also includes life and dental insurance at no cost to the athletes.
- The policy does not cover minor illnesses, but does cover training-related illnesses like staph infections.
An insurance policy is not a first for mixed martial arts or combat sports as a whole. Former promotions such as the International Fight League, offered insurance to its athletes. However Zuffa's policy is the first to cover a large group of combat sport athletes.
According UFC president Dana White, the policy was a goal of the company since Zuffa first purchased the UFC in 2001. In addition UFC chairman and CEO, Lorenzo Fertitta stated that the policy took three years to establish while trying to find possible insurers.
Prior to the introduction of this policy, Zuffa provided up to $100,000 for an athlete on each event to cover injuries sustained during competition. However if an athlete was injured outside of competition they would have to pay for their own medical expenses.
Notable incidents where UFC athletes were injured outside of competition include,
- Frank Mir, who was struck by a car while riding his motorcycle in 2004, and forced out of competition for over 20 months.
- Brock Lesnar, who was forced out of action for several months while struggling with diverticulitis.
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