UFC lays off staff three months after US$4b sale

Three months after changing hands for US$4 billion (S$5.55 billion), Las Vegas-based Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), is making staff redundant.

A UFC official said the layoffs represented "under 15 per cent" of the workforce.

A source confirmed that staff had already been laid off, and that between 60 and 80 workers were likely to be fired.

About 400 people worldwide are employed by UFC, the world's biggest mixed martial arts promotion. It has offices in Los Angeles, Toronto, London, Sao Paulo and Singapore, though sources said the new ownership team of WME-IMG has no plans to close any international offices.

In July, the talent agency bought UFC from Zuffa. Zuffa was majority owned by Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta, who took over in 2001 and turned UFC into a multi-billion dollar business.

According to MMAFighting.com, morale at the UFC's Las Vegas office is "very bad", in part because rumours of the cuts have been swirling for a while.

One source said the office was like a "morgue". Layoffs will come in multiple departments, including sponsorships, licensing, public relations and production. There are no immediate plans to reduce UFC's event schedule.

High-ranking executives have also been relieved of their duties, although UFC declined to confirm specifics.

The Straits Times understands that among the key leadership staff axed include Kenneth Berger, who was the executive vice-president and general manager of UFC Asia.

Berger was based in UFC Asia's office in Singapore, which was set up in 2013. It is believed that the Republic's office has been cut to just six staff.

Last Saturday's UFC Fight Night Manila, its only event in Asia this year, was cancelled just a week before the fight.

UFC visited Asia five times in 2014 (Singapore, Abu Dhabi, Saitama and twice in Macau), and three times last year (Manila, Saitama and Seoul).

Berger joins a high-profile list of staff who lost their jobs in the past week, including the former Manchester City chief executive Garry Cook, its chief global brand officer, and senior vice-president of global content, Jamie Pollack, and chief content officer Marshall Zelaznik.

THE GUARDIAN

•Additional reporting by Alvin Chia

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 20, 2016, with the headline 'UFC lays off staff three months after US$4b sale'. Print Edition | Subscribe