5 Things You Might Not Know About UFC Parent Company Endeavor

By: Brian Knapp
Oct 11, 2017
The most lucrative franchise sale in sports history was made official on July 11, 2016, as Zuffa LLC sold the Ultimate Fighting Championship to William Morris Endeavor and International Management Group (WME-IMG) for a reported $4 billion. Brothers Frank Fertitta III and Lorenzo Fertitta had purchased the UFC for $2 million under the Zuffa LLC banner in 2000, promoting their first event at UFC 30 on Feb. 23, 2001. It turned out to be quite an investment.

Upon purchasing the UFC, WME-IMG opened up ownership to a number of celebrity investors, including prominent Hollywood and professional sports figures. While the UFC suddenly had a more glamorous feel and UFC President Dana White retained his job, many employees within the company were not as fortunate. A few months after the sale became official, numerous reports surfaced that as many as 80 layoffs from multiple departments had occurred within the promotion. Chief Global Brand Officer Garry Cook, Chief Content Officer Marshall Zelaznik, Executive Vice President and General Manager of Asia Ken Berger and Senior Vice President of Global Content Jamie Pollack were some of the more prominent names to lose their jobs. Perhaps even more telling were the promotion staples that parted ways with the company of their own accord. Longtime matchmaker Joe Silva, Vice President and General Manager in Brazil Giovani Decker, Vice President of Public Relations Dave Sholler and longtime play-by-play commentator Mike Goldberg all punched the clock with the UFC for the final time by the end of 2016.

Still at the helm of the largest mixed martial arts promotion in the world, WME-IMG continues to evolve. It was announced on Oct. 9 that a new holding company had formed and WME-IMG had become Endeavor. Here are five things you might not know about the UFC’s parent company:

1. Its roots can be traced all the way back to the late 19th century.

WME-IMG started with the formation of the William Morris Agency in 1898. The great Charlie Chaplin signed with WMA in 1910, and the company later landed Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe as clients. The William Morris Agency went on to become William Morris Endeavor and in 2014 joined forces with International Management Group to form WME-IMG.

2. The UFC is only part of the company’s competitive pursuits.

Endeavor also owns the Professional Bull Riders. Founded in 1992, PBR has seen its membership balloon to more than 1,200 cowboys and its events televised on CBS platforms. The organization has awarded over $140 million in prize money in its 25 years of existence. WME-IMG purchased the Professional Bull Riders in 2015.

3. Political connections run deep at the executive level.

Ari Emanuel, one of Endeavor’s CEOs, is the younger brother of Rahm Emanuel -- the White House Chief of Staff under President Barack Obama and the current mayor of Chicago -- and Ezekiel Emanuel, an oncologist and bioethicist credited as the architect of the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare.

4. It has been an active entity on the philanthropy front.

Endeavor this year partnered with the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF). Since it was formed in 1946, the child advocacy group has spread across nearly 200 countries and territories.

5. It counts a number of Hollywood high rollers as clients.

Endeavor clients include Charlize Theron (“Monster,” “Atomic Blonde,” “Mad Max: Fury Road”), Ben Affleck (“The Town,” “Good Will Hunting,” “Armageddon”) Christian Bale (“The Dark Knight,” “Public Enemies,” “3:10 to Yuma”) Dakota Johnson (“Fifty Shades of Grey”), Emma Stone (“La La Land”), Rachel McAdams (“Wedding Crashers,” “The Notebook”), Ridley Scott (“Gladiator,” “Alien”), Mark Wahlberg (“Boogie Nights,” “Lone Survivor,” “Ted”) and Denzel Washington (“Training Day,” “Fences,” “The Magnificent Seven”).


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