Tag Archive for Looming

William Morris Endeavor looming purchase of IMG Worldwide sports agency could mean big things for UFC stars

Will UFC President Dana White and Co. have more Hollywood lawyers to deal with in the future?

If you were a fan of the hit HBO series “Entourage,” you may recall the outspoken and brash Hollywood agent Ari Gold — who had a firm grasp on most of the talent in “Tinsel Town” — attempting to get into the sports side of things in season seven.

Gold’s character — played by Jeremy Piven, an avid Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) fan — was based on Ari Emanuel, a real life Hollywood agent who is one of the leading executives at William Morris Endeavor (WME), perhaps the biggest talent agency in Hollywood.

And in what seems to be something taken right out of the script and brought into real life, WME might very well have a firm grasp on the sports world soon, as well, as Forbes reveals that they are expected to announce the $ 2 billion purchase of one of the biggest sports agency in the world, IMG Worldwide.

So how is this relevant to mixed martial arts (MMA)?

For starters, UFC’s women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey inked a deal with WME last year which eventually lead to her getting roles in “The Expendables ” and “Fast and Furious 7.” When UFC Light Heavyweight Jon Jones landed his Nike deal earlier this year, it was done with the assistance of Ari Emanuel, according to Malki Kawa, Jones’ manager.

And while UFC President Dana White and Emanuel seem to have a good relationship, the Las Vegas fight boss has expressed issues with Rousey’s Hollywood lawyer in the past, who may or may not work under Emanuel.

Nevertheless, as WME attempts to dominate sports business, much like it has done in the movie business, might we expect more and more MMA fighters to join their team?

After all, with high-powered agents at the helm who have scored big contracts for the likes of Justin Timberlake, Matt Damon, Mark Wahlberg, Alex Rodriguez and Michelle Wie, among others, who wouldn’t want go-getters like that seeking more coin for their pocket?

This landmark deal could mean nothing for MMA or it could mean that a changing of the guard — as far as talent management is concerned — could be on the horizon. According to Forbes, “William Morris Endeavor’s purchase of IMG Worldwide will immediately shift the balance of power among major players in the business of sports.”

White has expressed in the past that he doesn’t care much for sports agents, and now that WME might possibly be landing a few more high-profiled MMA athletes in the future, things could get a bit interesting for Dana and Co. at the negotiating table.

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With Final Fight Looming, Tito Ortiz Gets a Chance to Bask in the Glory

Photo by Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

LAS VEGAS — You’ll have to forgive Tito Ortiz if he gets a little carried away sometimes. In his early days as the UFC’s light heavyweight champion, he weighed in on a bathroom scale and performed for meager crowds of a couple thousand on some nights. As he took to the stage at Thursday’s UFC 148 pre-fight press conference to address a packed room inside a gaudy Vegas nightclub, he had to be feeling like he’d lived to see a whole new world rather than simply a new era for MMA.

Maybe that’s why Ortiz got a little swept up in the moment as he declared that the UFC had “taken over” professional boxing and the NFL, and was now aiming for basketball and soccer. And yes, maybe he also stretched his poetic license as far as it would go when discussing what he promises will be his final fight.

“I’ve always been about exposing this sport to its fullest potential, and it’s fullest potential is, we’re the greatest athletes alive,” Ortiz said. “We’re the modern day gladiators. As you can see, all these fans, the news and press, they’re here for us, because we are the modern day gladiators. We step out and we perform. On Saturday night I’m going to win, I’ll win the crowd and that’s how I’ll win my freedom.”

Okay, so it was a bit much, but who can blame him? He used to have to make his own clever t-shirts just to get noticed. Now he shows up to press conferences in a finely tailored three-piece suit as throngs of fans grab eagerly for the nearest mic so they can tell him how much he’s meant to the sport of mixed martial arts. Is it any wonder that, as he prepares to say goodbye to this life after fifteen long years, he gets a little sentimental?

After more than two months of training at his secluded gym in the mountains near Big Bear, Calif., Ortiz insisted he’d already paid the price to end his career on a high note in his rubber match with Forrest Griffin. Win or lose, he promised he’s “100 percent” done after this fight, and he sounded very much like a man who’s ready for a rest.

“It’s hard, man. People don’t understand how tough training is,” Ortiz said, when asked what he’d miss least about his life as a professional fighter. “You do it for fifteen years, yeah, the first eight years is cool. Nine years is okay. Ten years, you’re like, okay, this has been a decade. Damn.”

But Fifteen? The last five of which have seen very little payoff in the win column for all the work he’s put in inside the gym? You could see how it might be harder and harder to justify the pain and suffering, not to mention the time away from his family. Now he gets one last chance to bask in the glow of his former accomplishments before the book is closed on what the UFC has deemed a Hall of Fame-worthy career, and oh yes, he intends to do some basking.

When casino magnates Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta bought the UFC, he said, “they kind of put it on my shoulders.” When they got tired of losing money on the project in those early days, Ortiz said, he told them to “just hold on to this thing.” And now look.

Whether you agree with his version of MMA history or not, you have to admit that Ortiz helped carry the UFC into the promised land. That’s why it’s fitting that he should go out after a third fight with Griffin, whose fight with Stephan Bonnar on the finale of the first season of The Ultimate Fighter still stands as one of the single most important moments in making the UFC the pro fighting juggernaut it is today.

And yet, like Ortiz, Griffin’s career trajectory has flattened out in recent years. Ortiz might be retiring from MMA whether he wins or loses, but Griffin has remarked that he would “retire from life” if he lost a second fight to Ortiz — a line that prompted a steely grimace from Ortiz when it was brought up on Thursday.

“That retirement [talk], that’s been going around,” Griffin said. “Apparently when you joke about suicide, people think you might quit your job.”

But no, he’s not ready to go yet, Griffin said. Ortiz might hate the training, but he doesn’t. There are even times when it’s his only solace.

“After I got beat up by Silva, I was pretty depressed,” Griffin said. “This weird thing happened. Every day, I just got in my car and went to the gym. And no matter what I’m doing in life, that just seems to happen.”

It’s just that, as was the case in his last fight against “Shogun” Rua last August, sometimes great training camps lead to nights where, as Griffin put it, he fights “like s–t.”

And what’s to become of him if he has another one of those nights against Ortiz? Hard to say. But Ortiz’s legacy, whatever you make of it, is more or less set.

Sure, he’d like to go out on a win, because who wouldn’t? He’s had so few of them lately, it would be nice to get that feeling one more time. But even if he falls short, he’ll likely be remembered more for being one of the UFC’s early heroes than for ending his career on a losing skid. If the adoration he received from fans at Thursday’s presser is any indication, he’s not hurting for good PR. He’s sold himself well over the years, and charisma is often the last thing to go for an aging sports icon.

People will remember Ortiz for what he did for the sport and the UFC brand, whether he has one more win over Griffin in him or not. It’s just a question of if he can slide into retirement looking like a fighter who left because he wanted to, rather than because he had to.

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