The UFC sale has rapidly become one of the most slippery and uncertain topics in the MMA world. What initially seemed like a pretty straightforward report (and may very well still be so) has become muddled by a lack of secondary sources, an obfuscation as to how much of the UFC may actually be for sale, and a few outright denials. Stepping into that sea of information is a former UFC head office man, Campbell McLaren.
McLaren is most recently known for his new MMA startup promotion Combate Americas, which promotes itself as "the first U.S. Hispanic Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) sports franchise in history, designed to build Latino fighting champions and serve Hispanic fans..." The promotion has put on five events since September of last year, but it turns out that's not the only place the MMA entrepreneur is looking to plant his flag in the current sports landscape.
As he recently revealed in an interview with Submission Radio, when Zuffa recently took bids for a potential sale of the UFC, McLaren was part of a group of investors putting together what he described as a "tremendous offer":
"I don't think any of the reports are correct, by the way," McLaren told Sub Radio. "And I looked into potentially buying the UFC too with some very famous investment groups based in the US."
"This was this year - and I think you guys are getting the scoop on this," he continued. "I haven't talked about this in the media, and investment bankers and private equity firms are notoriously press-shy, so I'm gonna avoid naming names - but we had what we thought was a tremendous offer, and it was 2.8 billion. And that was sort of based on the investment bank arithmetic. The UFC did 200 million dollars in earnings before tax and depreciation, so last year they had a great year. They had Conor, they had Ronda. Great year. And they did 200 million dollars roughly in profit, so that's tremendous. And typically, bankers, private equity firms might look at earnings like that, and the range would be 12 to 14-times that [which] would give you the value of the company - so 2.8 (billion) was on the higher side.
"But I think Lorenzo [Fertitta] is very forward-thinking and he says, look, I'm building this tremendous platform around the world and the UFC is a great in Australia, right? Great success in the US. We're pretty good in Mexico. Great in Canada. Real traction in the UK. But yet, they have built out a platform in Asia and Europe and the Middle East that hasn't really come online yet. So I think Lorenzo looks at this and goes, we haven't even seen the real value of the UFC, so I want a lot of freakin' money. I don't want some banker's idea of what it's worth. I'm a visionary, I know this is worth a lot of money. So I do think he has a super-high value on it, but when you get to that point, there's only a few people that really can enter into that sort of purchase. Investors are typically very disciplined. Sometimes very well-to-do individuals get caught up in the glamor of something and will overbid, and that's kind of where I think they are. I don't think the UFC has been sold. I don't think it's gonna be on UFC 200. Now they may have sold off a portion at a very high evaluation, but they can come back to it later on and say, 'this is our evaluation'."
Now obviously, his take and the reports of a UFC sale being close to finalized can both be true, one group may not necessarily have specific knowledge of the negotiating process between Zuffa and other potential investors. But, it is interesting to hear from someone who claims to have been a serious part of the bidding process, and who believes that the media and fans have yet to hear the full story as to just how the future of Zuffa ownership will proceed.