by Ken Pishna – MMAWeekly.com
Unlike most “power tie” executives of billion-dollar companies that take to the set on CNBC’s “Power Lunch,” Ultimate Fighting Championship president Dana White donned an untucked, striped dress shirt and blue jeans as he, on Tuesday, announced the UFC’s latest business deal and squashed some of the rumors that have recently begun swirling.
“We just closed a deal with JAKKS and these are going to be available next Christmas,” said White as the camera zoomed in on action figures of Chuck Liddell and Brock Lesnar.
The announcement includes a four-year licensing deal with JAKKS Pacific, Inc. to produce collector-focused products, with the action figures planned for launch in Fall 2009. The likenesses to be immortalized, along with the aforementioned Liddell and Lesnar, are UFC interim heavyweight champion Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, middleweight champion Anderson Silva, Forrest Griffin and Michael Bisping, among others.
“These are collectibles,” added White. “Am I saying kids won’t play with them? No. I’m sure kids will play with them. There’s an Octagon and accessories and all kinds of things kids will play with.”
In a statement released by JAKKS Pacific on Tuesday, the company added that along with the action figures, the Octagon, and other accessories, the four-year Master Toy license also includes “role-play items based on the UFC brand and its classic and current roster of star fighters.”
Shortly after the CNBC segment, the UFC released details of other branding deals on its website. According to UFC.com, UFC-branded Bic lighters are already moving into stores and following April’s ‘soft’ launch of UFC t-shirts at 450 JC Penney stores, the retailer will create “UFC Hot Zones” in August that will sell shirts and headwear in the Young Men’s department. Silver Buffalo, this summer, will introduce UFC-branded watches, barware, bar accessories, lighting, wall décor, and billiards and darts accessories. And on June 15, US Bank launches its UFC VISA card with no annual fee and the option to receive points for UFC merchandise.
“There’s going to be incredible UFC-branded product,” said Randy Klein, the UFC’s Vice President of Licensing and Merchandising. “We’re establishing a benchmark of MMA product that no one has ever seen before. We’re going to be in retailers all over the world with our video game, apparel, and sports collectibles. It’s really an exciting time right now.”
In addition to announcing the licensing deal with JAKKS, White denounced some of the rumors that have been swirling about a big announcement he has planned for as soon as Thursday of this week.
The hottest of the rumors, and those that were posed to the UFC president on CNBC, include speculation that the promotion has signed recently retired boxing superstar Floyd Mayweather, Jr.; that they will enter into a partnership with World Wrestling Entertainment and Vince McMahon; that a new television deal with either FOX, ABC, or ESPN is on the table; or that the company will announce it is going public. All of which White responded to with a definite, and at times chuckling, “No.”
The licensing deal with JAKKS and other companies, however, is not “the” big announcement that all the Internet chatter has been about. And with White shooting down the hottest of the rumors, the speculation surrounding the upcoming announcement, that he says is going to be an indicator of where MMA is headed over the next five years, is sure to heat back up until it is revealed.