by Damon Martin – MMAWeekly.com (Photos by Jeff Cain)

(Top: UFC president Dana White; Middle: Anheuser-Busch vice president<br /> Tony Ponture; Bottom: Anderson Silva and Dan Henderson; P

(Top: UFC president Dana White; Middle: Anheuser-Busch
vice president Tony Ponture; Bottom: Anderson Silva and Dan Henderson; Photos
by Jeff Cain – MMAWeekly.com)


UFC 82


COLUMBUS, Ohio – On Thursday afternoon, UFC president
Dana White along with Tony Ponture, vice president, global media and sports
marketing for Anheuser-Busch, announced a new three-year deal between the fight
promotion and Bud Light, making it the major sponsor for the organization going


White expressed his excitement about the new deal with Bud


“Not only did we get and land a blue chip sponsor, we landed
the biggest. The biggest sponsor in sports, period,” he stated. “Not only are
these guys the biggest and the best at what they do in their industry, but they’re
the biggest and the best marketers in the world. We’re not talking the United
States. We’re talking the world. When I say these guys are No. 1, No. 2 is far
behind them.”


The addition of Bud Light as a sponsor for the UFC is a
major step for the promotion and one that White recognizes for its historical


“To stand here today and tell you guys that Anheuser-Busch
is now a sponsor of the UFC, this is as big to me as (when) we got sanctioned
in Nevada, we got back on pay-per-view, we got a television deal,” he
proclaimed. “This is seriously a historical moment for this company.”


Tony Ponturo, who represented Anheuser-Busch at the UFC
press conference on Thursday, also spoke about the choice for Bud Light to team
up with the UFC.


“Bud Light didn’t have to be involved with the UFC, it
wanted to be involved with the UFC,” he exclaimed.


The deal will begin on May 24 with UFC 84: Ill Will in Las
Vegas. The current sponsorship deal will run three years and includes the UFC,
the Ultimate Fighter reality series and the UFC’s sister promotion, World
Extreme Cagefighting, as well.


Ponturo talked to MMAWeekly.com about the sponsorship deal
and how the company has recently changed its sponsorships with boxing and now
with the UFC.


“I think what we watched was the consumer base. The 21 to
34-year-old male in this country started gravitating to the UFC,” said Ponturo.
“It’s pretty amazing looking at the growth of the sport to that demographic.
I think in some respects boxing became a little less interesting to them and
what the UFC people have been doing has been interesting to that consumer


The deal with Bud Light is also expected to have positive
results for the UFC with many mainstream sports outlets where Anheuser-Busch is
such a recognizable name in the industry.


“I think it will get some attention to say that Bud Light is
involved,” commented Ponturo. “Obviously with our reputation of being a big
sports sponsor, I do think it will raise some eyebrows.”


The announcement came on the heels of the EliteXC deal with
CBS that was announced Thursday morning. But White didn’t seem overly


“A year ago it was the (International Fight League). Where’s
the IFL now? Last week it was Mark Cuban. Mark Cuban and HDNet don’t look as
scary anymore do they?” said White. “It’s just another guy. They’re going to
keep popping up left and right.”


He continued, “One of my theories is their numbers were
declining and they weren’t pulling good numbers on Showtime, but they’re going
to pull better numbers on CBS? When you jump to network, you better be
powerful. Network numbers and cable numbers are completely different. They’ve
got their work cut out for them.


“There’re a
lot of guys with money trying to get into this business. There’s one company
that knows how to do it. They keep coming and every press conference that I do
over the last two years, I’ve got to hear about the next three letters that
just jumped in and bought a cage.”