When big names like UFC and WWE unite, one can expect a significant shake-up in the sports entertainment industry. With the recent announcement of the UFC’s debut event in Saudi Arabia, there’s more to the story than meets the eye. Let’s delve into the dynamics of this partnership, the role of iconic figures in the deal, and what fans can anticipate in the coming months.
The Mastermind Behind The Collaboration: Vince McMahon
When news broke about the UFC’s groundbreaking venture into Saudi Arabia, many speculated about the driving force behind such a colossal move. It was soon revealed that Vince McMahon, the chair of TKO Group Holdings, played an instrumental role in orchestrating the deal.
“It was Vince McMahon. It was 100% Vince McMahon,” Dana White, UFC CEO, mentioned to Sports Business Journal. He added, “He made every call. He didn’t make one move without picking up the phone and calling me and getting me in the loop, and seeing if I was cool with this and that. And he went from being, oddly enough, I don’t know why, an enemy (of UFC’s), to being an unbelievable, incredible partner.”
A Tale of Competitive Spirits
However, the relationship between McMahon and White wasn’t always this cordial. In a candid chat on Donald Trump Jr.’s Triggered podcast, Dana White shed light on the past tensions between the two powerhouses.
White stated, “It’s been an interesting relationship with Vince McMahon,” and added, “I never saw Vince as competition, but I’m thinking Vince, in his heyday [with the WWE], he saw everyone as competition.”
Recalling an instance where a proposed UFC deal with NBC was sabotaged by McMahon, White shared:
“We were about to do a deal with NBC, and it ends up we get to the one-yard line, and Vince has the final say of who can go on USA Network and who can’t if you’re a combat sport. Lorenzo [Former UFC owner Lorenzo Fertitta] and I flew out to Connecticut, sat down with him, we do all the small talk, ‘We’re doing a deal with NBC.’ Vince sits back like Vince sits. ‘We’re about to do this deal, we’re about to have fights on NBC and everything else, but you need to sign off on it.’ Vince says, ‘Yeah, I’m not going to do that.’ We’re like, ‘Why?’ ‘Eh, I’m just not interested in it. I don’t like the idea of you guys being on USA Network.’”
Despite these setbacks, the UFC forged its path, first with FOX from 2011 to 2018, followed by an alliance with ESPN that will last through 2024.
A Glimpse Into The Future: UFC in Saudi Arabia
The excitement is palpable as the UFC is all set to host its event in Saudi Arabia. This monumental event will transpire on March 2, 2024, at the illustrious Kingdom Arena in Riyadh. This venue is no stranger to iconic battles, as it recently saw the boxing duel between UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou and WBC heavyweight champ Tyson Fury.
The UFC card in Riyadh is not just another event; it will be a UFC Fight Night, intricately woven into the Riyadh Season—a grand celebration attracting aficionados globally.
To sum it up, the journey of the UFC’s venture into Saudi Arabia is layered with strategic moves, powerful personalities, and intense competition. Fans worldwide eagerly await the epic battles that will unfold in this new chapter of sports entertainment.