UFC president Dana White says his company has managed to evade the recession gripping the country... at least for now.
On the eve of UFC 92, he says he is "very impressed" with ticket sales for the Saturday event, and merchandising revenue remains strong.
"The numbers that we're doing now, we're going, 'wow, what would these be in a good economy?'" White told reporters following a press conference for UFC 92.
Going into 2009, the industry leading fight promotion is still eyeing expansion, not only beyond the borders of the US, but the buildings around its Las Vegas headquarters as well. Their current office, off "The Strip" a few steps from an In and Out burger chain, is undergoing renovation to accommodate more employees. Two adjacent buildings have been purchased as well.
White says they've already hired four employees in the States, and are looking to hire more in Europe to bolster international operations. The company employs 110 people in the U.S. and U.K.
"We were really lean in the early years," he said. "I almost got laid off a few times."
Still, with the UFC apparently lagging other industries in feeling the economic crunch, he admits 2009 may be a scary time to do business.
"We're focused on navigating through the financial (expletive) of 2009," he said. "We know some pretty powerful guys in the financial world that are saying 'wait till you see what happens in 09.' Companies that are going to make you (expletive) in your pants are going to go out of business."
White predicted boxing would face more hardship in the coming years. With mega-cards bearing the weight of the entire industry, he said the retirement of top draw Oscar De La Hoya would spell big trouble for "the sweet science."
"When De La Hoya goes away, they're really in trouble," he said. "After his last fight, I'd say he's done fighting. He looked terrible. I bet on him, I'm pissed."
Despite the UFC's aggressive expansion efforts, White maintains the secret to its success is to avoid overextending itself.
"We manage the business," he said. "What I've always said from day one, when everybody was like 'you're not doing this, and you're not doing that,' we're running a (expletive) business is what we're doing. You have to run this thing like a business or you're going to be like all these other guys, that are out of business."