Yesterday I saw what could be the future for some of our current USD School of Business students. I wasn’t looking into a crystal ball; I was looking at a friendship formed 25 years ago at USD that crystallized into an extremely successful business relationship.
Lorenzo Fertitta (BBA ’91) and Tom Breitling (BA ’91) were roommates at USD; today, Lorenzo is Chairman and CEO of Zuffa, LLC (which owns and operates the Ultimate Fighting Championship, UFC), and Tom is Co-founder and Chairman of Ultimate Gaming and Co-founder of Fertitta Interactive.
Lorenzo and Tom spoke at a students-only event on campus yesterday, and then spent most of the afternoon in small group breakout sessions talking with students about business, entrepreneurship and life.
Tom said it all begins with a sandwich: he advised students to get a sandwich with someone whose ideas and perspective interest them. That approach led him to take a job in 1993 with a startup company that became Travelscape.com. By 2000, he and his business partner, Tim Poster, sold the company to Expedia for more than $100 million.
That was just the first of his successful entrepreneurial ventures, and he tells the whole story in his 2007 autobiography, Double or Nothing. Tom is a tremendous supporter of entrepreneurship at USD, both financially and with his expertise. We’re looking forward to seeing him back on campus in April for the V2 Competition.
Lorenzo grew up in Las Vegas. He attributes his love of combative sporting events to attending boxing matches as a young boy with his father. Las Vegas had no professional football or basketball teams to rally around, and boxing filled that void for Lorenzo.
In 2001, when Lorenzo, his brother, Frank, and high school friend, Dana White, formed Zuffa, LLC, they acquired the assets relating to the UFC brand, which was the premier mixed martial arts (MMA) organization. At that time, MMA was a fringe attraction, largely unregulated and unable to appear even on Pay-Per-View platforms.
Under Lorenzo’s guidance, Zuffa spearheaded the regulatory effort for the sport of MMA, gaining approval and sanction from the world’s most prestigious regulatory bodies. Lorenzo described the process of instituting rules and regulations for the sport. They took elements of the rules of eight internationally-recognized combative sports – including judo, taekwondo, karate, etc. – and applied those elements to MMA.
Within a decade, Zuffa had made the UFC the fastest-growing sports organization in history. In 2011, the UFC went mainstream with a seven-year broadcast agreement with the FOX Sports Media Group. By 2012, UFC programming could be seen on some form of television in more than 169 countries and territories in nearly 800 million homes worldwide.
Throughout their careers, Lorenzo and Tom have been investors in each other’s businesses. Today, they are partners, along with Frank Fertitta, III and Tim Poster, in a new venture, Fertitta Interactive, focused on online gaming.
This story is about a friendship forged at USD and extraordinary business savvy and skills launched by a USD education. I am proud of these two men for their business success, certainly, but even more for their commitment to friendship and family that has contributed to their success every step of the way.