Wednesday, March 28, 2007

In the world of fighting, an alliance is formed

By Dunstan Prial

The North Jersey businessman who co-founded a professional mixed martial arts league said Tuesday that his venture can only benefit from the proposed merger of the two biggest organizations in the rapidly growing MMA sports entertainment field.

Gareb Shamus of Tenafly, who founded the team-oriented International Fight League with fellow Bergen County businessman Kurt Otto in 2005, said a planned combination of Ultimate Fighting Championship and Pride Fighting Championships has already raised awareness of the sport.

"What's great about this is that everyone is talking about MMA right now,'' said Shamus. "Whatever is happening out there is creating a lot of interest and excitement for the sport, and we feel that anything that generates this type of publicity is great for everyone, especially for us."

The owners of UFC and Pride said a joint venture between them will be used to establish megafights among the outfits' titleholders and possibly attract huge pay-per-view audiences.

Company executives declined to comment on the sales price, but a person familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press that brothers Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta will buy the Japan-based Pride for less than $70 million. The person was not authorized to speak to reporters and spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The deal was completed Tuesday and announced during a news conference in Tokyo, where Lorenzo Fertitta has been negotiating with Nobuyuki Sakakibara, the majority owner and chief executive officer of Dream Stage Entertainment Inc., Pride's owner.

Buying Pride is the latest in a series of acquisitions that the brothers have made in the last six months. Las Vegas-based Zuffa LLC, the parent company of UFC, snapped up World Extreme Cagefighting and World Fighting Alliance last year.

Shamus said consolidation within the fragmented MMA world will benefit the IFL by reducing the amount of competition.

Three weeks ago the IFL began airing a two-hour program of fights on the Fox-owned My Network TV on Channel 9 in New York.

Shamus said ratings are increasing and that the publicity surrounding the UFC-Pride merger will likely send more people in search of MMA programming.


No comments: