Talk show host Conan O’Brien announced this week he was among many celebrities who were offered an ownership stake in UFC by new owners WME-IEA (William Morris Endeavor-International Management Group).
“After the UFC deal was announced, WME gave some of their clients an oportunity to purchase a small ownershsip stake in the UFC,” he said. “I think I have 40 dollars worth, but anyway I said yes, so now technically I own a piece of the UFC. I am part of a group of investors that includes Ben Affleck, Tom Brady, Mark Wahlberg, Adam Levine, Cam Newton, LL Cool J, Maria Sharapova, Serena Williams, Sylvester Stalone, just to name a very few… This is a life-long dream of mine.”
He said he doesn’t want to just be an owner, but he intends to be a fighter. “I am told there is no better time to start fighting than middle age,” he said. “It’s just science. When I get in the ring – it’s big now – but when I start fighting, people are gonna lose their shit. People are going to go crazy.” He announced he’ll be fighting Conor McGregor on Jan. 4, and Ronda Rousey on Feb. 28, and then Maria Sharapova in May. “Then the day after that, my memorial service will be available on pay-per-view.” He then plugged UFC.com.
VIDEO LINK: WATCH CONAN’S VIDEO ANNOUNCEMENT HERE
Keller’s Analysis: This is one of the benefits of WME having celebrities buy into UFC. They have a stake in its growth, and they are thus more likely to promote it through whatever vehicles they have. This, of course, was just a silly bit on a late night talkshow, but having high-profile celebrities associated with the brand, it adds even more acceptance in the mainstream to the product. UFC is doing very well, but having more mainstream talks shows and sports radio shows give it attention and treat it as a top major league sport helps. UFC still lags behind big boxing fights in terms of the coverage it gets with many long-term sports talk show hosts, and celebrity involvement is one part of the formula to raise its profile to the next level. Ultimately, UFC promoting good fights with superstar competitors who fans are invested in seeing win or lose is what will make the biggest difference, but this helps. On another note, I know you were thinking about some sort of C.M. Punk joke when Conan mentioned there being no better time to get started in MMA than middle age, but Punk isn’t even in his 40s yet.