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Abu Dhabi owns 10% of the UFC

So it’s official: Abu Dhabi now owns a 10% chunk of the UFC. Once a punchline for Garfield comics, who’s laughing now bitch? Rumors have been swirling for the past week that Sheik Tahnoon bin Zayed al Nahyan had bought into the company but now it’s official, and now it’s been announced, with all the speculation you’d imagine from such a deal. While the Fertittas stated that this is just a way to help them ‘expand globally’, that didn’t stop the Las Vegas Review Journal from sniffing around Zuffa’s finances:

Zuffa carries $450 million in debt, including a $25 million credit facility due in 2012 and a $425 million loan due in 2015, according to a November report issued by Moody’s Investors Service. Moody’s, however, said Zuffa’s income, which comes largely from events and pay-per-view receipts, should be sufficent to make its debt payments.

Moody’s said Zuffa’s financial outlook is stable with good growth prospects.

“(Mixed-martial arts) is among the fastest growing sports today and is well positioned for advertisers that seek to reach males in the 18 to 34 age demographic,” Moody’s analyst Neil Begley said in a Nov. 10 investors’ note. “As a result, revenue growth is expected to remain strong for the intermediate term.”

Fertitta said the company “is very sound and very healthy” financially.

MMA Payout suspects that on top of keeping the Sheik from becoming competition (he was already funding the Art of War promotion in China), the hefty chunk of money paid out would go towards a war chest to keep control of the Fertitta casino empire, which got buttfucked by the recent recession.

Personally I’m more interested in what ‘Flash’ (the name of the investment company Abu Dhabi is buying into the UFC through) is going to bring in terms of change. Are they just going to sit on the sidelines, enjoying the prestige and financial windfalls of owning part of the biggest MMA company in the world? Or does this signal the start of a serious push into the worldwide market above and beyond the current ‘Show up once or twice a year in Europe with the exact same product’ thing the UFC is inching forward with now?