The return of live crowds along with continued success on pay-per-view has helped the UFC to the most successful first half of the year in company history.
That’s according to the latest earnings report from the UFC’s owners at Endeavor after they revealed new financial information for the second quarter of 2021.
Based on the release from Endeavor, the second quarter included “three sold-out, arena record pay-per-view events,” which resulted in the “biggest first half in UFC history.”
After Endeavor went public earlier this year, the UFC has remained the largest revenue driver for the talent agency turned sports and entertainment conglomerate.
During a call to speak about the second quarter earnings report, Endeavor CEO Ari Emanuel doubled down on his praise for the UFC while touting the biggest six months in the 26-year history of the promotion during the first half of 2021.
Those numbers would have gone even higher after Conor McGregor vs. Dustin Poirier 2 reportedly sold 1.6 million pay-per-views worldwide but the card took place without a significant live audience due to the global pandemic. The third fight between McGregor and Poirier in July reportedly sold even more pay-per-views with 1.8 million buys globally along with over a $15 million gate, which will go towards the third quarter results for Endeavor.
Overall revenue for Endeavor increased to $1.1 billion in the second quarter, which is up from $650 million from the same time last year. The company still reported a net loss of $319.6 million with $869.8 million in cash on hand at the end of the quarter.
“Despite continued challenges brought on by the pandemic, our company once again demonstrated resilience, due in large part to our global portfolio of premium assets and the creativity of our employees and partners,” Endeavor CEO Ariel Emanuel said in a statement.
“As you look at the secular trends defining our industries — marked by the growing demand for content, the increased value of the talent and brands behind that content, and the desire of people to come together around live events and experiences — Endeavor remains firmly and uniquely positioned for a strong second half of 2021.”
The UFC, as part of the owned sports properties segment of Endeavor’s portfolio, increased revenue 70 percent from $106.6 million in the second quarter of 2020 to $258.9 million in 2021.
The driving factors behind the massive increase was not only media rights fees from the UFC’s seven-year deal with ESPN but also more events from the mixed martial arts promotion. Endeavor also owns the Professional Bull Riders league, but the UFC is certainly seen as the leader for the owned sports properties at the company.
Looking ahead at the rest of 2021, Endeavor is expecting strong results despite the current trend of the Delta variant causing COVID-19 spikes all over the world. The company is also exploring additional revenue drivers such as working with college athletes after the NCAA changed the rules this year to allow NIL (name, image, likeness rights) deals to be signed.
“Talk about parting the Red Sea here, that space is wide open,” Endeavor president Mark Shapiro said when speaking to The Hollywood Reporter. “All of a sudden, we can sign these college players to advertising and endorsements deals.
“And if we do right by them, ultimately, we sign them down the road for their on-the-field contracts. The heavens have opened up on this one.”