Mixed martial arts continue to attract interest from investors. Some of them are even trying it out.
Stephen Pagliuca, co-owner of the NBA’s Boston Celtics and former co-chairman of Bain Capital, started practicing mixed martial arts this year, he said in an interview.
“I went to a gym near where I live and turns out, it’s an MMA gym. I’ve done 56 sessions in there,” the 68-year-old private equity giant said. “I’m the only one that doesn’t have a tattoo yet.”
Pagliuca recently joined a conference panel discussion on the intersection of business and sports with Chatri Sityodton, CEO and chairman of martial arts brand One Championship, and K. Don Cornwell, co-founder and CEO of sports investment firm Dynasty Equity.
Investment into mixed martial arts has grown rapidly as the sport’s popularity has boomed. In April, Endeavor Group Holdings agreed to buy World Wrestling Entertainment in a deal that values the company at $9.3 billion including debt. Endeavour’s Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) will account for $12.1 billion in the enterprise value of the new company.
“The market is growing tremendously, our metrics are growing tremendously, and capital is flowing into the market,” Sityodton said.
Singapore-based One Championship ranked fourth in terms of global TV viewership numbers among the world’s top 20 largest sports properties, according to a 2022 Nielsen industry report. U.S.-based MMA rival UFC appeared in ninth place.
Amazon.com, which now broadcasts an increasing range of live sports, signed a five-year deal with One Championship in the U.S. and Canada last year. As part of the agreement, Amazon will exclusively broadcast at least 12 of the promoter’s events live during prime time each year. One Championship also hosted its first-ever U.S. event three weeks ago outside of Denver, Colo.
In late 2021, the MMA organization raised $150 million in an equity financing round led by Guggenheim Investments and Qatar Investment Authority.