The $21 billion merger of WWE and UFC will create a sports and entertainment powerhouse, but the companies aren’t expected to rest on their laurels, says President and COO Mark Shapiro.
Speaking to Hollywood actor On Monday after the deal was formally unveiled, Shapiro (who will serve as president and COO of both the UFC-WWE joint venture) says the opportunity for expansion is significant.
By joining the UFC and WWE in one company, they will disrupt the number of fights and events produced by the company, while also increasing the primary content in fighters, personalities or live events (like Wrestlemania, which just wrapped up from the SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles this weekend that and where the end of the deal).
WWE has themRaw in the USA, which is the biggest show on cable television, let’s start there. smackdown broadcast, free of charge, which is great for them. Then they aggressively sold the WWE network and sold the super-top platform to Peacock for billions of dollars. And they make more than three hundred battles a year. So there’s a ton of volume that they’re making,” Shapiro said. “On the UFC side, there are only 42 fights a year, and the whole deal is closed with The Walt Disney Co. to increase the amount of fights we do. And that’s all, fight [a replay and library-focused UFC streaming offering] “What is currently the DTC offering that we own, control and operate is an opportunity to sell that’s part of a bigger deal on linear or streamer that’s not just about aggregated content, but aggregated networks.”
And beyond the fights, “from the perspective of original programming, we can launch completely new franchises that put the power of WME and behind all these flying efforts,” adds Shapiro. “The Last Fighter” [an ESPN+ reality competition series] he became a winner for us, the Contender series became a winner for us, but in this new composition we are waiting for unscripted shows, s.
But the deal is also an attempt to transform what the UFC has relied on to tell its growth story as talent agency WME has served as the company’s revenue backbone. (Cona CEO Ari Emanuel will be CEO of both companies).
Shapiro says he and Emanuel “provide extraordinary breadth” and “we believe we can be significantly involved in those areas, an opportunity to generate significant profit and potential profit” once the deal closes, as Dana White continues to run the UFC and Nick. Khan and Vince McMahon continue to run WWE.
As for the logic in the settlement, on Monday morning CNBC, Emanuel said that he believes that neither the legacy of the UFC business nor the business is sufficiently valued by Wall Street (the company’s valuation of the UFC at $12 billion in WWE is much higher than the total market cap attempt of $11 billion in the market last Friday) , expressed the hope that he would benefit from both properties.
Shapiro tells THR What he thinks most is “very exciting” for the current shareholder effort.
“First of all, it’s a special effort in the business, with experiences and events driven by WME, IMG and Location, a very attractive portfolio with very profitable margins, and most importantly, behind each of these secular business tails,” Shapiro says. “On top of this, our debt will be lower. So the net pressure was 3.8 times, which I know everyone wants to write. By the time it closes a lot, we will be closer to two times. So the healthiest weight of the balance to opportunistically grow or distribute, share buyback, you name it. And then let’s not forget , try to also have the benefits of 51 percent ownership of novices.
He adds that the talent agency will help the new company’s talent and get new opportunities.
“WME is incubating stars. Look at what we’ve done with John Cena, Ronda Rousey, Petra,” Shapiro says. to be.
When it comes to rights negotiations, Shapiro says he believes efforts are being made to assist WWE in these negotiations.
“WWE’s current deals with Comcast and Fox are expiring at the end of ’24.” And of course, the UFC is dealing with The Walt Disney Company, expiring at the end of ’25. Now remember, there’s nothing stopping us from starting early with those things if we wanted to,” Shapiro says. “And at the same time we’re going to choose to go with the best customer, the best platform, the best price anywhere, you know, over the next couple of years.”
“I think there’s an opportunity there on the domestic front, and then I’ll remind you that I don’t want to get lost in the mix: IMG Media plays a significant role here and this benefit WWE intends to come into the initiative. flywheel,” Shapiro adds. “IMG Media markets and distributes 150 sports properties, everything from Wimbledon to the NFL, in 160 different countries around the world. So the kind of scale, leverage and personal relationships that we have on the ground in the country is a significant differentiator. So I think internationally, we have significant upside for WWE as they come into the fold.”
And while the new partnership will soon be WWE and UFC, with the spinoffs expected to be completed later this year, Shapiro’s request leaves the door open for further M&A.
“We absolutely want – especially our healthy balance sheet, cash flow generation and multiple debt – to be very opportunistic, so you can look at a bolt-on [acquisitions] but you can also look [deals],” Shapiro says. “We will do what is best for the shareholder. The ability to divide, divide the buyers, but at the same time, if there is another WWE that enters the market that we are flying into, we will be able to explore it.