By ALAN SNEL
The new sleek headquarters opened in May.
But Thursday for the first time, Lorenzo Fertitta — the organization’s former CEO — checked out the 180,000-square-foot contemporary building and sprawling manicured grounds that were complete with amphitheater and training facility.
And a guy who has been regularly visiting the training center lately — a mixed martial arts star by the name of Conor McGregor — was on the grounds until 1 a.m. earlier Thursday to prepare for a cross-discipline boxing bout with boxing champion Floyd Mayweather at T-Mobile Arena Aug. 26.
As Las Vegas ratchets up its status as a major-league sports town, Ultimate Fighting Championship’s nearly three-month-old headquarters and its companion Performance Institute off the 215 Beltway in southwest Las Vegas have impressed everyone from Fertitta and McGregor to the NFL and NBA players who have made a pit stop to check out UFC’s new home base and institute.
The headquarters is decorated with oversized hallway art, while a gardens and amphitheater sit between the home base and the Performance Institute.
The headquarters replaces UFC’s former cramped home at 2960 W. Sahara Ave. Staffers moved in May 1, while the strength, conditioning and rehab institute began attracting some of UFC’s 525 contracted fighters three weeks later. About 25 percent of UFC’s fighters have already trained, rehabbed or received nutrition advice in the institute’s first two months, said James Kimball, vice president of operations at the Performance Institute.
“It’s a Disneyland for UFC athletes,” Kimball told LVSportsBiz.com during the Thursday tour.
The institute’s second floor includes a regulation-sized 30-foot caged octagon and a 20-foot-by-20-foot boxing ring that McGregor has been using during his afternoon and late-night sparring sessions.
The Performance Institute is 30,000 square feet, costing $14 million. UFC declined to disclose the headquarters construction price. But at six times the size of the institute, LVSportsBiz.com estimated that building could approach the $100 million range.
The headquarters includes a dozen glass-encased meeting offices named for legendary boxers such as Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson and UFC fighters like McGregor, oversized hallway art and a cafe with free food for UFC fighters.
The new headquarters and training institute are valuable assets for UFC, which sold for $4 billion to WME/IMG a year ago. Fertitta, UFC’s former CEO, launched Fertitta Capital with $500 million in seed money.
The institute has grabbed the attention of athletes in other sports. New York Giants received Brandon Marshall visited and observed it was the best training facility he has seen, said Lawrence Epstein, UFC chief operating officer.
The institute is a sound investment because it should minimize and prevent injuries to UFC fighters, while allowing them to recover from fights faster, Epstein said.
“If we save one Conor McGregor fight or one Jon Jones fight, we paid for the facility and then some,” said Epstein, noting even he rehabbed his ailing knee at the institute.
The training center will also generate income in other ways by attracting new revenue-generating sponsors that might shy away from UFC’s glitzy, bold Octagon image but wants to be associated with the UFC brand at the training level, Epstein said.
For example, the Hospital for Special Surgery, a New York City-based orthopedic hospital; Performance Inspired Nutrition, founded by actor Mark Wahlberg; and Body Armor have used the training center as a door to UFC sponsorships, the COO said.
The institute handles about 15 UFC athletes a day, but can max out with 30 fighters daily, Epstein said.
McGregor, who is crossing from MMA to boxing to face Mayweathar in a boxing rules events, has been visiting the institute daily to train and use the high-tech equipment such as the altitude chamber that emulates training at 9,000 for the UFC star, Kimball said.
McGregor brings in a group of 15 to 20 people, including a Showtime crew. The interest in watching the colorful MMA personality box a former champion like Mayweather has prompted observers to assert that there will be more than 4.5 million pay-per-views at $100 per purchase. Tickets on secondary markets such as StubHub are going for tens of thousands of dollars.
The institute’s bottom floor is strictly objective training, strength conditioning and nutrition education without fighting strategies. There’s even an indoor 40-yard turf track and a 50-meter sprint track just outside the building. The ground floor includes locker rooms, a fueling stations with shakes, vitamins and supplements and fancy equipment such as an underwater treadmill.
The second floor has the boxing ring and octagon, and that’s where the fighters and coaches strategize.
UFC had an internal medical team that worked with fighters at remote sites.
“There was no tangible presence that UFC was managing that internally — until now,” Kimball said.
Contact LVSportsBiz.com founder/writer Alan Snel at asnel@LVSportsBiz.com