People are interpreting today’s announcement that former Station Casinos president Lorenzo Fertitta will be working full-time for the UFC in different ways.
Some see it as a negative; that UFC president Dana White’s act has grown tired and Fertitta’s presence is imperative in order for the company to go to the next level.
Others view the announcement with a more positive spin; that the UFC is growing so much that White needs someone on the executive level who can assume some of his workload in order to ensure greater output.
I see today’s announcement as something in between.
Having someone like Lorenzo Fertitta involved on a day-to-day basis is huge for the future of the UFC. He’s been involved since 2001 as an owner and producer but now he’s in a position to make a much bigger impact.
But to say the primary motive for this decision is based on the growth of the company is not telling the whole story. While this isn’t a demotion for White and he isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, Fertitta’s involvement still means that a great deal of White’s power has been usurped. Before this announcement, Dana was the most powerful man in MMA. Now, he’s number two.
To say this move was made because the UFC is growing so fast is a cop out. The UFC has been growing at a fast rate for quite some time and we’re now only see this move made in light of EliteXC becoming the first promotion in MMA to land a primetime network television deal.
My feeling is that White has taken the company as far as he can take it. He’s been the key to the UFC’s growth for so many years but the stakes have changed with so many major media companies now paying attention to the sport. Corporate accountability is finally starting to be added to MMA’s lexicon.
White’s genuine business style was a refreshing change from boxing promoters and it helped attract new fans to the sport. However, what you see with White is often what you really get. There are times when his business acumen might rub people the wrong way (i.e. HBO) and when it comes to business development, you often need a soft touch when trying to woo potential partners. It just so happens that the phrase “soft touch” isn’t in White’s vocabulary.
On the other hand, Lorenzo Fertitta is a man that can be smooth as silk. While White will remain the public face of the company, don’t be surprised if meetings with Madison Avenue media buyers as well as major television networks are reserved for the more polished ways of Fertitta.