UFC owner Ari Emanuel tried to keep actors from striking

Ari Emanuel is named the second highest paid Hollywood executive amid SAG-AFTRA strike.

By: Stephie Haynes | 2 months ago

Amid the ongoing SAG-AFTRA strike, a name familiar to the MMA community has been making headlines. Ari Emanuel, CEO of Endeavor, the parent company of the UFC, has been named as the second highest earning Hollywood executive. Emanuel’s spot on the list was bested only by Warner Brothers CEO David Zaslav, who came in at just under half a billion dollars per year.

Ari’s salary in 2022 was a reported $346,938,367 (source of graphic was CNBC). As a matter of fact, Ari actually made nearly double what Disney head honcho Bob Iger made ($195,092,460).

Why is Ari Emanuel involved in SAG-AFTRA?

In case you’re wondering why Ari Emanuel’s name is so prominent during the strike, it’s because Endeavor still has the talent agency branch of the business. They represent A-listers like Dwayne Johnson, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman, just to name a few. There are a lot more name stars on their roster, but you get the idea—they represent all the biggest names in Hollywood. Period.

Emanuel even made an offer to step in and try to find a resolution to prevent actors from striking. According to Deadline, Ari contacted SAG-AFTRA to try to prevent a total shutdown if actors joined writers on their ongoing strike. Surprise! They did.

“This wasn’t just about stopping a strike, it was about finding a way forward for everybody” a source close to events told Deadline. Another insider said the union was very receptive to Ari Emanuel’s outreach and wanted him close to the process in the final hours before the actors joined the strike.

Those close to the situation report that studio executives have become determined to break the WGA and insiders noted “The endgame is to allow things to drag on until members start losing their apartments and losing their houses.”

The UFC heads are just as Machiavellian and over the last few years, they’ve become increasingly bolder. The president and public face of the organization has slapped his wife in public, waged war with media entities and embraced problematic social media influencers as members of his inner circle. There appear to be no limits.

Bob Iger is in the hot seat

Bob Iger is another name familiar to this space because Disney owns ESPN and ABC. Bob was in Sun Valley late last week for a media and tech conference and seemed to imply that parts of Disney could be up for sale in the future and that they might be looking for a partner for ESPN. The below video podcast has a pretty good encapsulation of the events from the tech conference:

Iger’s statements on the strike early last week landed him in hot water when he said the labor action was detrimental for the industry and that demands were “unrealistic.” If that sounds vaguely familiar to you, it’s because Dana White has used a similar tact when trying to explain the UFC’s budget not allowing for all fighters that get a finish on a card to get bonuses. It’s a strategy they’ve used to quell talks of the dismal state of fighter pay, as well.

UFC financials

UFC financials revealed that the UFC is so good at cutting costs—specifically fighter pay—that they’ve managed to break records and set personal bests consistently. Where once the fighters’ cut of the revenue actually hit a little north of 20%, it has now been shaved back to just 13%. That’s down from around 17.5%, which had been somewhat of a constant for the last several years.

Their partnership with ESPN has allowed them to make money hand over fist without really putting in much effort. A look at the massive spate of Apex cards—even after the pandemic—tells us all we need to know. The stark reality is that UFC fighters will always make peanuts while the execs making insane money off their backs will continue to make hundreds of millions. I doubt Ari Emanuel even knows who Alexandre Pantoja is, much less that he was driving for Uber Eats up until two fights ago. What’s worse is I don’t think he would care if he did.

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About the author
Stephie Haynes
Stephie Haynes

Stephie Haynes has been covering MMA since 2005. She has also worked for MMA promotion Proelite and apparel brand TapouT. She hosted TapouT’s official radio show for four years before joining Bloody Elbow in 2012. She has interviewed everyone there is to interview in the fight game from from Dana White to Conor McGregor to Kimbo Slice, as well as mainstream TV, film and music stars including Norman Reedus, RZA and Anthony Bourdain. She has been producing the BE podcast network since 2017 and hosts four of its current shows.

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