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Exclusive: UFC sells percentage of company to Flash Entertainment of Abu Dhabi

FiveOuncesofPain.com has recently received reports from multiple sources extremely close to the situation indicating that the UFC has recently sold a minority percentage of the company to Sheik Tahnoon Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the son of the former United Arab Emirates president Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan.

Sheik Tahnoon is well known throughout the grappling community as the founder of the no-gi submission Olympics, the Abu Dhabi Combat Club. Himself a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt under Renzo Gracie, Shiek Tahnoon has been a long time supporter and practitioner of Jiu-Jitsu.

With a current estimated population of 896,75, Abu Dhabi is the second largest city of the United Arab Emirates. Abu Dhabi currently possesses 9% of the world’s proven oil reserves and nearly 5% of the world’s natural gas. In 2007 Fortune Magazine named Abu Dhabi as the single richest city in the world.

Many of you will remember UFC President Dana White posting the following message on August 3 of 2009:

Been on a plane for 20 hours. Just landed in abu dhabi!!!

Of course this was the message that raised the eyebrows of many in regards to attempting to decipher exactly what had caused the UFC figurehead to make a trip to such a distant and seemingly unlikely location.

Perhaps Dana was negotiating to have some of his athletes take part in the upcoming ADCC in Barcelona, Spain, which was scheduled for late September. As a matter of fact, several notable fighters from both the UFC and WEC had been listed to compete in the tournament before all of the names from the promotion were removed from the bout list in the days leading up to the event.

It wasn’t until the first of November when we heard anything new on the UFC/Abu Dhabi front, and this time it was Zuffa CEO Lorenzo Fertitta making the return trip to wealthy Middle-Eastern city, who tweeted the following during his stay:

Here in abu dhabi with renzo gracie. Do you want him to fight in the ufc?

Then it was the UFC 105 post-fight press conference on November 14 when White went even more into detail on the circumstances surrounding his and Fertitta’s recent trips to Abu Dhabi, stating, “We’re sending some of our crew there tomorrow. They’re flying out of here in the morning, and it looks like we’re going to do a fight in Abu Dhabi. That’s what we’re trying to do.

“We’re trying to figure out how this thing we’ll work. I don’t have a deal, but I’m pretty confident that we’re going to make one.

“I really don’t have any details other than that we’re working on it, and we’re confident that it will happen. I like Abu Dhabi. It’s a pretty cool place.

“Obviously, everybody knows Shiek Tahnoon is a huge jiu-jitsu guy. He’s a Renzo Gracie black belt. He’s very into jiu-jitsu.”

Skip ahead to December 2 and this time it was both Dana and Lorenzo who chose to take a brief getaway to Morocco of all places to meet up with Sheik Tahnoon where the pictures seen below were taken.

White jokingly played at freeing an incarcerated former UFC fighter from a local prison during the trip in this tweet:

In morocco to bust lee murray out!!!!! :)

Of course FiveOuncesofPain.com has received information from several sources indicating that the trip had little to do with busting Murray out of jail, and everything to do with a major deal between the UFC and Sheik Tahnoon.

A week later the UFC president had this to say in regards to his recent trip to Morocco in an interview with MMAFanhouse.com, “We were doing a deal out in Morocco. What I was in Velenzuela for is top secret.”

5 Oz. has been further notified by several sources that have indicated that Sheik Tahnoon’s Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu instructor, Renzo Gracie, played a key role in brokering the deal between the two parties. We have been further informed that key components of the deal included Gracie’s signing by the UFC, along with the Renzo’s participation against Matt Hughes in Abu Dhabi.

FiveOuncesofPain.com has made multiple attempts to contact the UFC regarding this situation but have yet to hear back from the promotion. We will keep you up to date as soon as we receive any type of official comment from the UFC.

(UPDATE: The UFC has confirmed that it has sold a 10% stake of the company to Flash Entertainment in Abu Dhabi, and while both Lorenzo Fertitta and Dana White have confirmed that they met with Renzo Gracie in Abu Dhabi, they have since reported that he had nothing to do with the negotiating of the deal.)

dana sheik cahnoonlorenzo fertitta sheik cahnoon

21 COMMENTS
  • themml says:

    i justy don’t get it

  • fanoftna33 says:

    It sounds like a early april fools joke. Kind of like the one they played last year.

  • themml says:

    they might have agreed to something finacially with him in order to get an event there like promotion or a revenue share

  • Dufresne says:

    This does make sense financially, now they have a minority owner with a HUGE amount of expendable income which is a wonderful asset to have in today’s economy.

    It also makes sense on the fight level as the Sheik has numerous connections with world class grapplers and their trainers/gyms.

    Kind of a surprise, but nevertheless it’s a smart decision.

  • MacBatty says:

    It makes PERFECT sense! They now have a HUGE MMA fan in their corner with an open pocket book and all they had to do was give him some meaningless stock in the company.

    WIN – WIN If you ask me! UFC gets some more cash to get who they want and the Sheik gets to say he is an owner of the UFC…..

    On top of everything the guy is very well respected by the whole MMA world so he can be a nice counter balance to Dana’s Insanity!

  • MacBatty says:

    BTW…..I don’t Tweet because I have a life but, that tweet from Dana about Lee Murray was HILARIOUS!!!!

  • Rece Rock says:

    Def. just a marketing ploy to enhance the interest in the upcoming PPV… or a way to have a non- american represent them in foreign expansion?

    either way who cares? If it is true it’s a small minority stake even- it’s not like the sheik would have any creative control or executive power- just reaps the benefits of the revenue… but it’s def a hype thing…or a smart business move to help foreign expansion.

  • Rece Rock says:

    To all the posters saying this is about $$$-

    UFC doesn’t need financial backing… the owners have there own personal bank called a casino. They can afford any fighter they want to begin with- they are just smart enough to not set a precedent in the industry by overpaying fighters and agreeing to crazy contracts… they are businessmen first fans second…

    yea the UFC needs some one with deep pockets, that’s funny.

  • Dufresne says:

    Rece Rock: yea the UFC needs some one with deep pockets, that’s funny.

    Didn’t say they NEED one, just that it’s a very nice luxury to have.

    Just FYI, that personal bank of a casino has taken a beating financially lately. Gambling revenues are down a significant amount lately while the cost of running large establishments has gone way up.

  • Kuch says:

    This is all about connections. It will probably greatly reduce the cost of doing business in the UAE now that a local is part owner of the promotion.

  • king mah mah says:

    It looks like they’re at a terrorist training camp! Why would you need assault rifles?

    What do they plan on doing? Build the tallest octogon in the world? LOL

  • Rece Rock says:

    I’m sure even in these tough economic times Lorenzo and co. are financially sound.

    my point was simply that theres more to it whether it be positive or negative when it comes to DW and UFC theres always more to it then whats on the surface.

  • Angry Mike says:

    Maybe the Fertittas want to open a casino or a club or a hotel in Abu Dhabi or want in on some other venture with the Prince and a piece of UFC was part of the price tag. Who says a deal is only about MMA? These guys have other business ambitions, too.

  • Davey D says:

    Correct me if I am wrong but within the past 3-4 months the UFC has managed to include Shane McMahon and Sheik Tahnoon into their fold. The McMahon thing may not be true but he did withdraw $80 Million from his WWE stock and was seen in Vegas at the UFC HQ. Silent partner maybe? Hmmm???

    Sounds to me like Zuffa really is gearing up to expand their brand Worldwide. They also seem to be pulling a lot of the right resources to do it as well. These two Familes would (read: might) be the right ones to be associated with to make the necessary moves to get into places that normally may be “hard to get into”… we’ll see as the year progresses. Cheers!!!

  • BillyWarhol says:

    He’s in it for the PUSSY + Ringside Girls + to be Honest I can’t say I blame him!! Afterall I still got da HOTS fer Gina!!!

  • roshambo says:

    This is most definately a money grab. Having someone part of the organization that has wealth may be vital to their future endeavours. The Station Casinos that the Fertittas own filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy around the middle of last year. The fact that all of this is taking place in a financial down turn certainly won’t help their cause to restructure and get on better footing. While the UFC is it’s own entity and is profitable by itself, there is not an endless supply of casino money to help start new projects or expansion while waiting for a return on the investment. This is likely a way for them to ensure they will have any money they need moving forward without having to give up much. They give away a minority stake in the company and know they have someone on their side that has lots of money. The casino may turn around and get going again it may not. If it doesn’t, it certainly doesn’t hurt to have ridiculously rich partners to fall back on.

  • I wasn’t seeing this in good light until I read through some of what you guys wrote. I know see the big picture. This guy being the big MMA fan that he is opens alot of doors and give the financing to help and that is good. I just hope the UFC doesn’t sell out completely.

  • Im stoked about this….with different rules and athletic comissions to go go through Im wondering if we’re gonna start seeing things that aren’t legal( Knees and soccer kicks to downed opponents heads) be made legal and things that already are (elbows) be allowed while the UFC is in other foreign lands. I know this hasn’t been the case in Europe but I have always been unclear as to Europes rules vs. ours. If Machida and Shogun fought where they allowed the soccer kicks Machida would be through! anyway, its always nice to see the greatest sport in the world expanded by the biggest company in the world, and I see nothin but good things come out of this!

  • Nick Havok says:

    superdavenorcal: Im stoked about this….with different rules and athletic comissions to go go through Im wondering if we’re gonna start seeing things that aren’t legal( Knees and soccer kicks to downed opponents heads) be made legal and things that already are (elbows) be allowed while the UFC is in other foreign lands. I know this hasn’t been the case in Europe but I have always been unclear as to Europes rules vs. ours. If Machida and Shogun fought where they allowed the soccer kicks Machida would be through! anyway, its always nice to see the greatest sport in the world expanded by the biggest company in the world, and I see nothin but good things come out of this!

    We are never going to see rule changes within the UFC…not like that anyway.

    The UFC is a product and they want that product the same each and every time. From the intro, to the announcers, music, graphics, etc it’s the same from show to show. Much like a McDonald’s hamburger. No matter where in the world you go…the damn thing tastes exactly the same!

    So they are not going to change the rules for one show. It would confuse the fans and also be a big change for the fighters. It would drastically alter how they train I would think.

    Not to mention that soccer kicks will never be allowed within a cage. It’s much to dangerous. If you get someone’s head up against cage and kick it, there is nowhere for the head to go and that person is going to get severly effed up.

    That is why soccer kicks are allowed in a ring…there isn’t a wall there to pin someone’s head up against.

  • ozz_the_powerful says:

    Seems like a pretty cool guy……

    I see this a great opportunity to build a stronger fan base overseas, especially the Middle East.

    Hey, you never know…… Maybe he wants to financially back a Fedor Deal……… ?

  • […] days ago FiveOuncesofPain.com first reported that the UFC had sold a percentage of the company to an Abu Dhabi based investor, and the promotion […]

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