According to ESPN, talk of UFC being for sale is still circulating. It is estimated that the UFC’s value is between $3.5 to $4 billion. Four potential bidders have been identified. One of those bidders is a Chinese company with no roots to the American sports market. So what would make this Chinese company, or any company for that matter, a stronger candidate? A leader who is in touch with the audience, and the sports-entertainment market, television and pay-per-view.
Enter Shane McMahon.
Yes, that Shane McMahon, heir to the WWE empire and son of the man who single-handedly transformed “pro wrasslin'” into “sports entertainment.”
Shane McMahon was groomed from birth, alongside his sister Stephanie McMahon, to eventually take over the throne of WWE. Shane attended Boston University and graduated with a degree in Communications. During summers as a child, he sold programs at events and worked in the WWE (then WWF) merchandise warehouse. Later, under a pseudonym, he worked as a referee. As an adult, he became an on-air personality, adopting the name “Shane-O-Mac.” He also graduated to the role of President of Digital Media, running WWE.com, and likely setting the groundwork for digital on-demand WWE Network.
In November, 2007, WWE was in talks to buy the remains of UFC competitor, Pride Fighting Championships, from Japan’s Dream Stage Entertainment. With his finger more on the pulse of the world outside of pro wrestling than his father, WWE Chairman Vince McMahon, World Wrestling Entertainment was a potential bidder then to enter into the world of mixed martial arts. Instead, Station Casinos, ran by UFC owners Frank and Lorenzo Fertita, bought the rights hoping to operate two separate organizations on opposite ends of the world. The Fertitas discovered that the Japanese audience would be more welcoming to a company with Eastern origins that an American company. Ultimately, the purchase netted UFC the Pride video library and some fighter contracts.
In 2009, McMahon left the WWE amidst rumors that he at the time was the same age as his father when he purchased the then WWF from his father Vince McMahon, Sr. and felt he could not climb out from under his father’s shadow unless he struck out on his own.
A year later, Shane entered the Asian business market away from the world of wrestling, becoming CEO in two ventures bringing On-Demand video and broadband internet to China. This is what makes Shane McMahon a better talking head than current UFC president Dana White.
White, the Boston Bad Boy, is a ruthless businessman whose bravado may make him the idol of many Americans, but likely turns off executives in traditional Asian countries. All of the deals involving UFC branching outside of the United States, and even in legalizing and regulating mixed martial arts in New York, were led by the more reserved Fertita brothers.
In order for McMahon to be a serious contender as a UFC buyer, he must create distance between himself and the WWE. This could present a problem, as he has recently returned to the company, but from all accounts, he is only under a performer’s contract. McMahon still maintains ties as owner/CEO to his previously mentioned companies as well as a sports management firm.
Will White and the Fertitas balk at selling their phoenix that they helped pull from the ashes, to someone with roots in pro wrestling? MMA and pro wrestling, or UFC and WWE are far more similar than either may care to admit. As the pro wrestler, the Million Dollar Man Ted Dibiase used to say, “Everybody’s got a price!”
[Image via WWE]