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Rumors of UFC sale begin to surface; Dana White comments (audio)

Rumors have been circulating that Zuffa has been shopping the UFC to potential investors. FiveOuncesOfPain.com (FiveOuncesOfPain.com) first heard of these rumors last weekend during EliteXC’s ShoXC event in Atlantic City.

The rumors of a potential UFC sale were again running rampant this past weekend at UFC 81 in Las Vegas and Steve Cofield of Fox Sports Radio 1460 asked UFC president Dana White to comment on them during a post-show radio broadcast.

FiveOuncesOfPain.com (www.FiveOuncesOfPain.com) has transcribed portions of the exchange between Cofield and White.

Cofield: “Looking ahead… Well, you tell us first, what’s going on this week? You said you’re going on the road. You’re working in Canada. Is it something to do with a (network) TV deal?”

White: “You know I can’t talk about it. I’m going on the road to get some stuff done. Hopefully I come back with the prize.”

Cofield: “I heard it from some of the most reputable guys in the business. We were hearing the crazy rumor the last three days that the UFC is on the sales block.”

White: “Yep, I heard that one too. I heard that one last year too… If that was the case and that was what I was doing this week it wouldn’t just be me flying out there. It would be me, Lorenzo, Frank; I mean there’d be an army flying out there if this thing was for sale.

“Listen, the way that I look at business… is your house for sale? … No you’re not selling your house but I bet you that I can buy it. No the UFC is not for sale. (I’m) 38-years old. I love this stuff. We have big plans and we’re working on a lot of things. ”

Cofield: “Have you gone into, say, a TV negotiation and they’re like, okay, ‘Let’s negotiate, negotiate,’ and then they’re like, ‘Okay, how about we buy you?'”

White: “Yeah. Yeah, that has happened.”

Cofield: “So maybe that’s where it came from?”

White: “Yep. There have been many offers made on the UFC. (But) they weren’t big enough. Like your house. Know what I mean? (But) your house isn’t for sale. I think everything in this planet is for sale. You could buy my shoes right now if you offer me the right money. But my shoes aren’t for sale.

“So… No, I’m not flying out of town next week to go sell this thing or anything like that. Hopefully when I come back in town next week I’m gonna at least be in the direction of announcing some big news.”

White’s denial is pretty clear. However, specific buyers have been linked to the rumors and one of the rumored buyers is Vince McMahon’s World Wrestling Entertainment.

Click here to listen to White addressing the rumors. We’ll have more details as they become available.

44 COMMENTS
  • if WWE buys the UFC im gonna stab somebody.

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  • Adam Morgan says:

    Agreed. Totally agreed.

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  • Evan says:

    “Vince McMahon’s World Wrestling Entertainment.”

    If they could afford to get into MMA you would think they would have bought on of the other orgs that were sold last year and a half. WFA, PRIDE, ICON, Cage Rage, WEC etc…

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  • Al says:

    If Vince McMahon buys the UFC I’m stabbing myself. In the eyes. With acid tipped razor blades.

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  • Ivan Trembow says:

    White said the same exact thing a few years back regarding rumored sale negotiations (“Is your house for sale?”) and then it later came out that at the time he said that, he was actively shopping the UFC around to potential buyers. (This was admitted by White and Fertitta on the CNBC documentary.) So it could be that “Is your house for sale?” really means, “Yes, we’ve been shopping it around,” or it could mean that it is, in fact, just a false rumor.

    One key difference between now and then it that the UFC was still losing money back then, whereas they are now massively profitable and have been since 2005/2006.

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  • Sergio says:

    I honestly don’t see them selling.

    Like Ivan said, the company is profitable now.

    And has the potential to grow exponentially in the next 5 years.

    The Fertittas didn’t get rich by thinking short-term.

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  • Jeremy says:

    Like the article says I would think the rumors came from companies making offers to buy the UFC and then, of course, being good businessmen they listened to the offer. Then somehow it got leaked since they listened to the offer, that they were selling/looking to sell the company. That would be my thought on the whole rumor.

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  • gg says:

    No way they are selling UFC in ’08

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  • atom says:

    Perhaps it has something to do with the U.S. economy and the projections of a recession.

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  • Grape Knee High says:

    I think there is another option — one that Dana pretty clearly stated in the above interview — that it seems no one else is picking up on. Besides “actively shopping” and “false rumor” there is a third option.

    Let me describe it with a real scenario:

    I know several people at work that interview with recruiters and other companies semi-regularly. They are fully happy at their jobs (and with their pay) and have no real intention of leaving. But then why do they do this? To continually see what else is out there, to network, and see what their market value is. If the right opportunity comes along, they would consider taking it, but only for the right opportunity. Otherwise, they are perfectly content.

    Would I say they are actively shopping? No, not really. It’s not like they’re interviewing every week, maybe every few months at the most. They aren’t hitting the job market with the same activity and intensity someone would if they were *really* looking for a job.

    Anyway, I thought Dana made it clear they’re not “actively” shopping but are always willing to sell for the right offer — and are willing to negotiate to get the right offer. It’s a shade of gray rather than the simple black and white that everyone likes, but I fully understand what nuance he’s trying to present.

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  • Eric says:

    Vince buying UFC would be the absolute worst case scenario. He would destroy the company. I could only imagine all the assinine changes he would make to turn it into a pro wrestling-like company. Anything that Vince touches aside from WWE turns to shit. XFL. WBF. WCW. The WWE movie company. All of his non-WWE projects have failed miserably and he would be terrible as the owner of the UFC.

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  • Ryder Die says:

    I am going to look at the other side of the fence. I agree with point of views from a couple of the commenters.
    The one with the economy could be an influence but overall I think that it would be a mistake by each party to sell to WWE, CBS or whomever else is a prospect but I think that it is more of a reality than people want to believe. This is something that could happen at anytime when the price becomes high enough.

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  • jaydog says:

    I’d love to see the UFC sold to… whoever, really. MMA needs to evolve beyond Dana White’s micro-management and the other orgs out there aren’t popular enough to lead the way. So, if a new owner/prez takes over, maybe they will change the popular promotion for the better and build the sport. If they screw things up (like making it closer to pro-wrestling), then the fighters will find other venues to compete and the fans will finally get to see match-ups that we’ve been waiting for (Fedor/Randy).

    This time around, the UFC would not be sold because it’s losing money. No. It would be sold because it’s making lots of money and could make even more. As for the WWE as a buyer, that would catalyze a lot of changes; not all good, but interesting to say the least.

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  • Ivan Trembow says:

    Grape Knee High— That does make a lot of sense and I would agree with that theory IF it weren’t for the fact that the same people previously used the “Is your house for sale?” line in public interviews at the same time that they WERE actively shopping the company around. Because of that, everything has to be taken with a little bit of a grain of salt.

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  • Grape Knee High says:

    Ivan, point taken. Generally, I don’t take anything Dana White says at face value, but in this one I actually do believe him.

    Now that the UFC is immensely popular, White and Fertitta have the power and financial leverage to take the sport where they want to. I think the ego factor here is high. I don’t think they’re done with this thing just yet — although like any good businessman, they’ll take the money and run if the offer is just too good to refuse.

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  • Michaelthebox says:

    *smacks head at jaydog’s comment*

    It astounds me that jaydog can talk about MMA needing to evolve beyond Dana’s micromanagement, point out that none of the other promotions have any popularity, and fail to draw the obvious conclusion: that the UFC’s popularity is at least partly tied to Dana and the Fertittas.

    I’d cry if they sold it. They have done and are doing amazing things for the sport.

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  • robnashville says:

    That interview with Dana…. kinda offensive that he refers to Hong Man Choi as Long Duk Dong at about the 6:20 mark…..Is it any wonder Dana wasn’t able to make a Zuffa owned Pride viable in Japan. I mean he really seems sensitive to the sensibilities of the Asian market based on that comment.

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  • ufcfan says:

    if vince mcmahon buys it, i will never watch another show.

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  • jaydog says:

    Michaelthebox: The UFC has done well, but it needs to do better. I don’t believe that the other promoters’ models challenge the UFC one bit and their owners aren’t likely to be behind the offers in question. Whoever gets into MMA by purchasing the UFC will bring something new, hopefully more professional, and spark needed change. Even if it’s McMahon attempting to go legit like Lesnar is, his polarizing presence will drive fighters and fans to embrace other promotions and MMA will benefit from the equivalent of an influx of viable “third parties.” Just speculation, but that’s how I see it. Change is good. Have faith in the fighters’ continued appeal.

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  • Evan says:

    “The UFC has done well, but it needs to do better. ”

    What signs have they shown that they aren’t growing?

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  • jaydog says:

    I know I’m out on a limb at this point. But, who among you haven’t lamented the unprofessionalism that has become the hallmark of Dana’s extreme-side show that is on the verge of becoming a sport?

    Signs of stagnation:
    -Fedor/Randy gridlock
    -Relegated to the man channel (no network or HBO deal)
    -Squashes Pride instead of expanding into Japan
    -Weak leadership on roids issue
    -Insular on a global scale
    -Underachieves for its foreign fighters
    -Zero objectivity in production/commenting

    Feel free to add to this list. There are lots of improvements to be made. I hope someone buys Dana’s not-for-sale smelly shoes.

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  • mike wolfe says:

    People need to distinguish between their feelings about Dana and his track record as a business man in the context of the UFC. None of the above really have anything to do with the dollars and sense of managing and growing a business. The fact is that MMA is bigger and more profitable than ever, and that’s directly attributable to the growth of the UFC. How long has Zuffa owned UFC, and how big is it now compared to when they bought it? That’s pretty much the beginning and the end of the discussion. As long as the sport continues to grow, it is inevitable that it will break through to a major network. Networks are in it for the bucks, just like any other business. Once they’re convinced there’s a big enough market, UFC will break through. Sports like NASCAR are proof of that.

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  • BigBad Bradical says:

    jaydog. . .Spoken like a true man of commerce himself. I agree on all that’s on the list. To add might I also say:

    -Poor treatment(financially & clash of egos) with & of veteran fighters that have made UFC its revenue today (i.e., Andrei Arlovski, Couture, Tito, etc. . .)
    -God complex of organization’s president (Dana)
    -Limiting sponsors (we always see the same ones; Mickey’s, Toyo Tires, etc…)which limits inner-economic growth
    -Low pay to top level fighters…thus leading to the #1 flaw…GREED!

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  • Evan says:

    “People need to distinguish between their feelings about Dana and his track record as a business man in the context of the UFC.”

    Agree.

    But also I am sure Dana would be happy to get out of it. He probably works 80 + hours a week.

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  • Michaelthebox says:

    jaydog: I get the feeling you wouldn’t be happy unless the UFC had gone from underground sport to biggest sport in the world within a single year.

    Most of those things you list are growing pains, nothing more. Even two years ago, the thought of getting on network TV was a pipe dream.

    Now, because the UFC is unwilling to cede production control in order to get on networks as quick as possible, they are unprofessional and stagnating? If they got on network tv by giving up creative control, and CBS proceeded to fuck up the UFC’s brand, you’d be on here talking about the deterioration of the product.

    Pull the blinders off. The UFC has made massive massive strides in their product. Don’t forget that half of america still perceives MMA as a bloodsport.

    The list of incredible strides the UFC has made over the past few years would squash your puny list of so-called “signs of stagnation.”

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  • Andrej says:

    jaydog I would also like to add to your list. Spoken like a true man.

    – Sign Asian young talent like Yoshiyuki Yoshida who beat Akira Kikuchi and Dong Yung Kim who is undefeated. But lost on Takanomi Gomi
    – Has signed Harley Davidson as a sponser as well in talks with Budweiser (rumors) to replace Xyience.
    – Zuffa purchased WEC. WEC has it’s own TV network. And has added top Talent from the lower weight division’s.
    – Is expanding to Europe and Canada. Talks of going to Mexico
    – Still averages huge PPV Buys like UFC 78 even thought sucked it made money.
    – Signing Good talent from different place’s in the world without breaking there wallet. David Bjelkheden and Rousimar Palhares come to mind.

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  • Michaelthebox says:

    Nice list, Andrej. Zuffa can’t do anything right!

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  • atom says:

    Perhaps I just don’t view the 5oz comments sections enough, or perhaps I had just settled for the forums on Sherdog for too long… but its nice to read a little inteligent back-and-forth on an issue like this.

    Personally, I’m hoping its the 3rd scenario GNH suggests in #10, and it also would seem to make the most sense. I’ve always thought the Fertittas and White were in it for the love of the sport, not just money. Hopefully thats not just wishful thinking.

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  • Evan says:

    Andrej

    I would also like to add to bad things they have done.

    -signed a reported 100 million dollar TV deal with Spike which is probably worth more than all other MMA orgs combined. Just for a TV deal.

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  • jaydog says:

    Although I think the likelihood of a UFC sale is very slim, I can’t help but entertain (fantasize about) the benefits for the fans, the fighters, and the sport (while provoking a needless squabble). Sure, we can rehash every UFC high-point, but nostalgia leads to paralysis. Expansion and growth often require cold calculation. Dana embodies this with some of his maneuvers, but I think he is too often short-sighted. A future owner would likewise slash and burn and stake out in new directions. I don’t think that’s something to be afraid of. Ultimately, we’ll all tune in where ever our favorite fighters are building their MMA records.

    Anyhow, this really doesn’t seem probable (the bloodsport thing, of course). But, it makes sense to ask ourselves (or Dana), why would CBS want to own and control the UFC product? What would they likely do different? And could any (current or future) dumbass running the biggest MMA promotion in the world really do anything to stop the growth of this sport? Whether it’s horizontal or vertical expansion, these fighters are taking over.

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  • Evan says:

    jaydog

    who can do better? MMA orgs are selling right and left. Who has show more stability and a better product for the fans?

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  • jaydog says:

    see #19

    To be honest, I think MMA needs a bunch of fair minded bureaucrats working the match-ups and they should be disinterested in the financial outcomes. Several promotions would collaborate on organizational policies and other democratizing mechanisms that would institute balance and oversight. However, for the meantime, I’d settle for some network partnerships that include input by the sports depts of said channels making the “primetime UFC” a true collaboration and with shared control. Of course, that would probably mean that the “extreme prez” would need to stop acting as spokes person. But, maybe I’m asking too much.

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  • Canuckle Sandwich says:

    atom wrote:
    “I’ve always thought the Fertittas and White were in it for the love of the sport, not just money. Hopefully thats not just wishful thinking.”

    Atom, you’re fooling yourself.
    Just read the recent Fertitta interview that’s been kicking around…love of the sport has nothing to do with it, it’s ALL about controlling and marketing the “brand”…and the brand relies on marketing, not product (any shite product can be sold if it’s marketed “properly” and with enough financial muscle behind it.) They just saw an underrepresented market with some growth potiential that was open to almost total control by a well organised company that was willing to think long-term…and they capitalised on that and did an excelelnt job, but the sport itself is essentially perhipheral to that success. It’s just business after all :)

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  • mattio says:

    To take the time and effort to listen to proposals sounds a lot different then only being open to a ridiculous sum of money.

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  • Michaelthebox says:

    jaydog, you contradict yourself left and right. You want cold-minded calculations; you also want fair minded bureaucrats disinterested in the financial outcomes. You say the sport is growing, but if its growing so much, why does it matter what Dana does with the UFC? You say the fighters are taking over, but the fighters are heading TOWARDS the UFC in record numbers; why do so if they could fight elsewhere and make the same money, as you seem to think they can?

    You seem to be laboring under a LOT of misperceptions, so let me clear a lot of them up for you.

    1. MMA is growing fast.

    Reality: MMA grows slowly. The UFC grows fast. In the past couple years, WFA and Pride stopped being able to support their shows, and had their assets bought out by the UFC. Zuffa liked what they saw in WEC and bought them out completely. ProElite jumped up and using Gary Shaw’s connections got on Showtime, but they’re losing money hand over fist. Mark Cuban supposedly is not at all happy with the money he’s lost on HDNet fights. Strikeforce continues to do OK, but they are still a regional show at best. Bodog fights started out with huge financial support, they’ve backed down now after hemorrhaging money. The IFL stands on its last legs. The UFC is destroying everybody, largely due to understanding their market and the promotional game better than anybody else in MMA or boxing.

    2. The fighters are taking over.

    Reality: Quick, name a fighter fighting outside the UFC who is a star in the US. They don’t exist. Those fighters who are stars in Japan were stars because of K-1 and Pride. While the hardcore fans on here obsess about the fighters and the lesser promotions, the money necessary to pay the big stars comes in from people who just buy the UFC PPVs and think Fedor Emelianenko is. . actually they don’t think anything about him at all. The fighters who are popular are popular because they’re big AND IN THE UFC. There is little reason to think they can go elsewhere and still bring in the PPV buys. The one or two who could get paid damn well by the UFC to stick around.

    3. Democratizing processes would result in fair matchups.

    Reality: HA!!!! Have you watched boxing, like, ever? They’ve got collaboration, balance, and oversight. Which is why boxing doesn’t do shit to build good fighters. They only care about the fighters who can market themselves. Lyoto Machida would be a nobody in Brazil right now if MMA was run like boxing.

    4. The “extreme prez” has a negative impact on the UFC and MMA.

    Reality: In fact, just about all the problems that people have with Dana are things that have zero impact on the bottom line. There is little to no evidence that Dana holds grudges to the detriment of the UFC’s growth. There are mounds of evidence that Dana will put the health of the UFC ahead of everything else. And the health of the UFC is closely tied to the health of MMA. He’s not a perfect businessman, but there’s little reason to think he’s not a very good president.

    5. What the UFC is doing now represents what the UFC will be doing ten years from now.

    Reality: the UFC has made enormous strides, makes enormous strides, all the time. Your evidence of stagnation isn’t evidence of stagnation, its evidence that building a business is fucking hard. For instance, you chide the UFC for failing to expand in Japan. Yet the evidence right now is that K-1 controls all the channels for getting on TV in Japan. Or underachieving for its foreign fighters: almost half their champions right now are foreign. They sign top fighters from all over the world, constantly. What the hell do you want? And what the hell is this nonsense about them being insular on a global scale? Are you trolling?

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  • mike wolfe says:

    “Fair minded bureaucrats?” God help us. The prospect of some pasty drone deciding anything about the UFC or MMA is enough to make me soil my drawers. Dana White may be overbearing at times (and far less than many of his critics suggest), but he does care about the sport. I can just see it now–the bureaucrats decide that all the fighters have to wear green to show their environmental sensitivity. Or all the fighters have to wear different colored plastic bracelets to show their support and sensitivity for the cause of the week. Or we have to sit through insufferable half time shows with well coifed dumbasses who know nothing about the sport.

    Capitalism is like MMA in the sense that it’s pure competition in a sport where the combatants have to evolve to stay at the top. People are willing to pay to watch MMA because they get what they want. UFC is dominating because it provides the best product, and their profits and market share prove it. If UFC tried to force people to take something other than what they want, they’ll move on, and the sport will suffer.

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  • Sam Cupitt says:

    Cofield’s show is great. He gets all the people you want to hear from and then asks the questions you want answered.

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  • jaydog says:

    Michaelthebox: Sorry if my lack of brand loyalty offends you. I watch every UFC PPV (although not for $44.95) and I think that MMA actually does have greener pastures in the future under different management.

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  • Sam Caplan says:

    Cofield is the man. A promotion should hire him to do their post-fight interviews.

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  • atom says:

    #33 — “Atom, you’re fooling yourself.
    Just read the recent Fertitta interview that’s been kicking around”

    Can someone point me to this?

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  • Michaelthebox says:

    jaydog: it ain’t your lack of brand loyalty. Its your lack of sense. I’ve heard very good reasons to question UFC’s management. Just none from you.

    atom: ignore Canuck Sandwich’s crack about the Fertittas. I think the interview he references is on Yahoo, maybe a link through MMAPayout. Regardless, CS takes the wrong lessons from the interview.

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  • Achillies says:

    IF Vince buys UFC.

    We will have special guest referres in UFC who can hit the fighters.
    Other fighters distracting the REF, while something illegal is done in the fight..
    Handi-cap matches and stupid weapons introduced..
    All kinds of stupid shit will be bought in.. oh i can’t wait, I look to the UFC as being my future (http://www.mma-id.com/Achillies) But now I don’t know where they will be in 5 years.

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  • jeff g says:

    if i owned the ufc i would sell them , but it seems like there asking alot, if they find someone to bite on the price they want why not sell it. yea there making a profit now but who knows for how long. you have to get out when the gettin is good.

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  • red says:

    i think its true.because with mark cuban entering mma.and is a certified billionaire.the ufc needs more money to fight the big business.and that billionaire is vince mac mahon.ufc is doing really well.but im afraid theyre overhead costs are really high.so billionares can give them a lot of headache by threatening to give more money to theyre(ufc)fighters.and theyll do it to force a sale. hd net suing zuffa any indication?

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