In this portion of the interview, Fertitta explained what UFC did, in fact, learn from Vince McMahon and Co. while trying to get its feet on stable ground.
"It wasn't about their product, it was about their business model, they had become very astute at selling their product and getting people to buy pay-per-views (PPV) by using free television. When we started, we had no traditional free press. Nobody was covering us, no one took us seriously as a sport. Therefore we had to turn to the WWE model which was, they have Monday Night Raw, Thursday Night Smackdown, which were television shows that told a story, and the story was trying to convince you to transact on Sunday night on PPV. So we said look, it's going to take awhile for the free press to cover us, we don't have that long to wait, therefore we must buy our way on TV, get on that free-to-air format, tell our story, let the fans know who these fighters are and convince the fans to buy the PPV on Saturday night. So looking at their business plan was the key."
Relations now between WWE and UFC are cordial, if not sometimes complimentary, but this wasn't always the case according to the Chairman of the Nevada Resort Association.
"The other key for us early on is we needed to position ourselves against WWE, because at the time back in 2001, they were big in the United States, big around the world, we were very small, so our tagline was 'as real as it gets,' because WWE is fake, so we wanted to position ourselves away from them and I think that worked to our advantage. Of course, real combat, real fighting is obviously more attractive to the adult."
Adults aren't the only age group drawn to UFC. Fertitta attributes the growth of his company to the way it presents itself to those initially intrigued by what they see.
"We do draw a younger demographic which is very valuable to the media companies. We're drawing that consumer that is no longer easy to find watching television, they are doing other things. We have figured out a way to attract that young demographic to our sport and I think it's because of the way we present it. It's very edgy, we break a lot of rules that television would typically tell you not to do. We are selling adrenaline."
For some of that audience, watching MMA on television isn't enough.
The idea of becoming a professional fighter is an opportunity Fertitta says UFC is affording to anyone with the gall to try out. He attributes the success of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) to the deep talent pool UFC currently boasts, adding that more editions of the show will sprout up world wide.
Next up, the United Kingdom.
"We are working on developing a version of The Ultimate Fighter for the United Kingdom."
What about for those who make it through the reality series and fight regularly inside the Octagon? How well are they compensated for their efforts? According to Fertitta, the method of pay makes a heck of a lot more sense than the most successful form of combat sports, boxing.
"What we are doing is providing an opportunity for the masses, the fighters that want to have a career, to make millions of dollars and I would say that our pay structure is actually better [than boxing] because there's not just one person getting the revenues. We stack these cards and spread the money over the entire card. That's why you'll see at the O2 [Arena], people will show up at four or five in the afternoon to watch the entire card. If you go to a [Floyd] Mayweather fight the arena's empty until Mayweather steps in the arena to fight. At the end of the day, we are providing a platform where we've got fighters that range from guys that we're giving an opportunity on the under card making 20-30-40 thousand dollars a night, to guys that are superstars, like Georges St. Pierre, Anderson Silva, making 4-5 million a night. Then you have an incredible athlete like Ronda Rousey -- the highest paid female athlete in the history of combat sports -- who is literally making millions of dollars per fight."
That's some heavy cheddar.
So where does the ability to dole out such large sums of money come from? According to Fertitta, less and less of it comes from the age-old pay-per-view (PPV) model.
"PPV is important because it's one of the big revenue drivers for us in North America, but as time has gone on it has become a smaller percentage of the overall revenue. We are not as dependent on PPV. We are very focused on generating rights fees. It's not just about PPV anymore, it's about extending the company into becoming a media company as opposed to a fight promoter."