The key figures in the Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor deal have been well publicized.
On the UFC’s side, Dana White and Ari Emanuel of WME-IMG were the major players. Mayweather Promotions CEO Leonard Ellerbe was in there representing Mayweather. So was Showtime executive Stephen Espinoza for his company’s portion of the negotiations. For McGregor, it was his manager Audie Attar.
There were many more, including the fighters themselves, involved in one of the biggest — and quickest moving — sports business discussions ever.
Attar mentioned another man who was integral in things getting done but not in public view Monday on The MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani: former UFC CEO and majority owner Lorenzo Fertitta.
“I think Lorenzo Fertitta has been instrumental in a lot of different ways in Conor’s career,” Attar said. “And yes, he was very instrumental in putting us together to really get everybody to talk and get on the same page when everybody started to see this was a real viable business proposition.”
Fertitta and his brother Frank sold the UFC to WME-IMG for more than $4 billion last July. The two have not been in the public eye much since then, returning to work for their Red Rock casino group in Las Vegas.
When Fertitta was UFC CEO, he was known as the closer on deals, bringing an even hand to the bargaining table. It seems like, per Attar, he was one of the people who got things started this time around for the fight, which will take place Aug. 26 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
“I have a lot of respect for Lorenzo and I know he’s excited, but I think nonetheless this is something he’s very passionate about,” Attar said. “He cares a lot about the sport, he cares a lot about the UFC. And he cares a lot about Conor. It was really special for me to see that he was interested enough to try to at least to put all parties together so we can do good business.”
On Feb. 15, McGregor posted a photo on social media of him standing with Lorenzo Fertitta in Las Vegas. Perhaps that’s the date where Mayweather vs. McGregor started to become more of a reality.
I came up under Lorenzo Fertitta and the Fertitta regime. Nobody in the history of the fight game has come up as fast and as young as I have. I now, at 28 years of age, have my eyes firmly set on the 'highest paid fighter' and 'highest earning athlete' accolades. Understand and respect what you are witnessing here. Because not one of you can do nothing to stop it.
Fertitta does still own a portion of the UFC. McGregor has asked for an ownership share himself. But talk that “The Notorious” won’t return to the UFC after the Mayweather bout because he stands to make an incredible amount of money is mostly incorrect, Attar said.
“Conor is a very ambitious young man,” the manager said. “That’s a key word. Key two words: young man. There’s a lot more he wants to accomplish athletically and as a businessman. He definitely wants to fight again in MMA. If all things go well and he feels good, it could potentially happen at the end of the year. There’s definitely no guarantees, but he definitely wants to come back and compete again in the UFC.”