The “major announcement” has finally been made. UFC employees were informed this afternoon in Las Vegas that UFC co-owner Lorenzo Fertitta has resigned as President of Station Casinos to work full-time with the UFC.
Thomas Gerbasi of UFC.com has full details on the announcement:
“…While perceptions about the sport of MMA have changed as casual fans and mainstream media have come aboard, what hasnâ€™t changed is Zuffaâ€™s single-minded pursuit of excellence, epitomized by the hard-charging White, whose hellacious pace canâ€™t be rivaled by any head of a major sporting organization. But as Whiteâ€™s global journeys continued to mount while the company pursued its rapid expansion into Europe, Canada and beyond, White recently got a phone call from Lorenzo Fertitta, his best friend, high school classmate, and business partner, who decided that he was going to resign his post as President of Station Casinos to work full-time with the UFC, an announcement made officially to Zuffa employees Wednesday afternoon in Las Vegas.
â€œI was shocked,â€ said White when asked his initial reaction. â€œBut I said â€˜We did it, weâ€™re there.â€™ And I was so happy because I have so much respect for him, and the UFC was his dream too. You donâ€™t drop $44 million into something that youâ€™re not passionate about. So this is his dream, he loves this sport, he loves this company, and Iâ€™m happy for him too.â€
For Fertitta, the sportâ€™s incredible growth prompted his decision to devote all his time to the UFC.
â€œWeâ€™ve seen this explosive growth of the UFC, and particularly the opportunity we now we have internationally, so we felt like it was time for me to come aboard and help the team grow and expand,â€ said Fertitta. â€œAnd what it came down to was me and my brother Frank have always been in the same meetings and been running the same businesses, and we felt it was time to kind of divide and conquer. Heâ€™s gonna focus 100 percent on Station Casinos and Iâ€™m gonna focus 100 percent of my time on the UFC.â€
For White, having Fertitta in the office every day is a Godsend.
â€œIâ€™m only one guy,â€ admits White. â€œLast month I was home four days. This month I was gone two weeks and my secretary just told me Iâ€™m going to be in Las Vegas next week for 24 hours. Thereâ€™s so much going on, so much opportunity, and weâ€™re growing so fast that thereâ€™s only so much I can do. I look at milestones in this companyâ€™s history, and the reason the UFC is here is because of Station Casinos. The Fertittas’ ownership of Station Casinos gave them the ability to take this on as a hobby. Now the fact that this hobby has Lorenzo leaving Station Casinos to come work on this, Iâ€™m proud of it and itâ€™s a big day for me.â€
And despite Wednesdayâ€™s announcement, itâ€™s not as if Fertitta is just jumping into the operations of the UFC cold. The former Station Casinos boss has always been involved with all the aspects of the business and is a fixture at Octagonside for every event. But now, all of his time can be focused on the UFC.
â€œIâ€™ve always been involved in the business of the UFC,â€ he said. â€œIâ€™ve talked to Dana numerous times a day over the last eight years about the business and Iâ€™m involved with all the major strategic parts of it. The problem is I havenâ€™t been able to contribute 100
percent of my time, energy, effort and focus to it, and thatâ€™s really what this affords me to do. Thereâ€™s so much to achieve, especially when you talk about worldwide global growth. Itâ€™s not something that one person can do â€“ itâ€™s got to be a team effort, and Iâ€™m really just coming over to hopefully add to the team here.â€
â€œNothing changes as far as structure goes or how this thing is run,â€ said White. â€œIâ€™m gonna keep doing what Iâ€™m doing. The difference is, me and Lorenzo talk 40 times a day anyway, and instead of me and him getting together and going over things, heâ€™s gonna be there every day, all day, non-stop. Itâ€™s big for this company â€“ me and my best friend got into this together and now we actually get to work together.â€
Theyâ€™ve come a long way in just eight years, and perhaps what kept Zuffa afloat wasnâ€™t just a belief in their product but in each other. That kind of loyalty is hard to find in any walk of life these days, especially in the fight game. Is that the secret?
â€œI think it was a passion we had for the business and the sport, and I think it also is the partnership and friendship that me, Frank, and Dana have,â€ said Fertitta. â€œI think thatâ€™s one of the keys to our success, that weâ€™re like three brothers, and the only way to get through the bumps in the road in tumultuous times is to have a great relationship, a great friendship, and a great partnership. I think that gives us such an advantage over any of these other companies or any of these competitors. Nobody has the partnership or stability at the top that we have.â€
And now the fun really begins.
â€œWeâ€™re probably one of the most aggressive companies out there, and we can kick back and say â€˜oh, weâ€™re the fat cat here in the United States,â€™ but we donâ€™t,â€ said White. â€œWeâ€™re out here to build a sport and build a company, thatâ€™s what weâ€™re doing, and weâ€™re not gonna stop until we get there.â€
â€œIâ€™ve always been a believer that this was going to be the biggest sport on the planet,â€ he said. â€œThatâ€™s what our goal is and thatâ€™s where weâ€™re taking it.â€