The Ultimate Fighting Championship was founded in November of 1993. The original company was pitched as an eight man tournament and referred to by most as a tough man competition because people misunderstood the clashing of different martial arts styles. Fast forward to 2016 and the company sells for $4 billion, and is reportedly worth over $7 billion to this day.
During the recent 83 Weeks Podcast, Eric Bischoff talked about the UFC in 1993 while also covering Clash of the Champions XXV. Bischoff talked about the company not being any sort of competition to WCW during that time. He also recalled being interested because of his martial arts background, but that interest apparently had nothing to do with being competitive with WCW.
“Nobody looked at it as competition – it was a tough man contest,” Bischoff said. “Not taking anything away from people involved in it, but it was being promoted as a tough man type. It wasn’t being promoted the way it was being promoted today. I don’t think anybody looked at it as a threat or competition. As a fan, I was curious about it but not concerned about it.”
Bischoff also talked about being contacted about buying the UFC during its early stages in the 90s. He said the company wasn’t the big juggernaut they were today, and clearly, looking back, he wishes he would have known what it would become.
“If we’d have known then what we know now, I’d own it,” Bischoff said regarding the UFC. “I was offered to buy it at one point for 2 million dollars and I didn’t bother to return the phone call.”
The UFC was purchased by Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta in 2001 for the 2 million dollars Bischoff was talking about, and the company was nearly going out of business and close to bankrupt when they purchased it. Bischoff continued to talk about how much money the Fertitta’s must have lost in the process of turning it around. He also talked about the impact of the Ultimate Fighter to the UFC’s long term success.
“The Fertitta’s, when they bought it, people didn’t realize how many 10s of millions of dollars the Fertitta’s lost before it turned around,” Bischoff said. “There was probably over a hundred million dollars of red ink that flowed out of UFC before it finally turned the corner. It wouldn’t have turned the corner had it not been for [The Ultimate Fighter] on Spike. That was the golden ticket, the lottery ticket, that turned things around.”
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit 83 Weeks with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.