Photo by Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images for LACMA
UFC is still immensely profitable, and broke financial records. Again.
Year over year, the UFC has boasted about breaking their financial records, and 2021 was no different. Endeavor Group Holdings held their Q4 2021 earnings conference call on Wednesday, and it’s where they announced that the UFC continued that trend and had their best year ever.
“UFC posted its best financial year in its 28-year history,” the Endeavor CEO and UFC owner Ari Emanuel revealed. “All Pay-Per-View events sold out, sponsorship hit record revenue highs and international rights deals saw significant increases.”
Endeavor CFO Jason Lublin says “UFC revenue was up 30% year-over-year,” citing 14 new international media rights deals, along with “significant growth” in sponsorship, which includes lucrative deals with Crypto.com and DraftKings.
They also announced that Endeavor’s “Owned Sports Properties” segment’s revenue is up 16% and generated $1.1 billion. They remained highly profitable, showing that their adjusted EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization) is up 17%, making an impressive $537.6 million for the year. They also noted that EBITDA margins are also up to 48.5%.
They didn’t reveal more specific figures for the UFC, but Moody’s previously estimated that UFC made up around 90% of the total business for Endeavor’s “Owned Sports Properties” in 2020.
Lublin also notes that the Russia-Ukraine war won’t be affecting Endeavor and the UFC much, saying “we expect less than a 2% impact on adjusted EBITDA on a consolidated basis.”
The numbers they announced are very close to the UFC’s previously revealed targets of having 50% EBITDA margin. To achieve that, they planned to maintain fighters’ revenue share at just 17% for years.
That low revenue share was brought up during the Q&A portion of the call, with Emanuel defending the UFC’s controversial low fighter pay. Here’s how the exchange went:
Brandon Ross: “Could give your perspective on why the overall splits have ended up where they are, and what your outlook is there, whether we should expect the relative share that fighters are getting a revenue pool to go up in time or stay kind of where it is?
Ari Emanuel, Endeavor CEO: “We’ve increased fighter pay. I want to make sure I’m right, about 400%?”
Jason Lublin, Endeavor CFO: “600%”
Emanuel: “600% since 2005. So — and we’re investing in the business with Performance Institute, food, recovery. So we have done — and now participation in Dapper Labs and NFTs in the kits. So we think we’ve done very, very well.
And as the revenue for the business increases has only benefited that business. And we’ve grown, and the sport has grown, and fighter pay has grown too, as I said, how much it’s gone up since 2005.”
Ross: “I think the pushback that’s out there, though, is that your overall revenue base at UFC has grown much more than that 600%, I believe, and what the overall relative share should be?”
Emanuel: “Well, I’m not commenting on that. I think we’ve done very well as it relates to the pay for the fighters.”
Emanuel has already used this “fighter pay is up 600% since 2005” defense in the past. As alluded to in the Q&A, the issue is that since 2005, UFC’s revenue and profits have grown over 1700% and 6200%, respectively.
We already discussed his claim in-depth when he first said it, but this line still holds true: “While fighters are definitely making more than they did in 2005, so are the promoters. In fact, the gap between the fighters and the promotion has only increased over the last 15 years.”