The UFC, the IOC, and the Value of Precedent in Global Expansion


Today, Mark Fischer serves as Executive Vice President and Managing Director of UFC Asia. Fischer, the man responsible for the NBA’s explosive growth throughout the Asia-Pacific region, knows what it takes to bring a traditionally American sport into a country like China, and he is well aware of the potential pitfalls Zuffa LLC may face as the organization expands into this part of the world. In terms of assessing the dangers and challenges of enforcing intellectual property rights internationally during this expansion, Zuffa LLC and the Ultimate Fighting Championship (“UFC”) would be well-advised to consider the precedent that has been set forth by similar organizations entering foreign markets.

While the International Olympic Committee (“IOC”) and the UFC are not one in the same, there are many parallels between the events that each organization hosts worldwide. The Olympic Games, on one hand, consist of international athletic competitions between citizens of various nations. Similarly, UFC events are international mixed martial arts competitions between fighters of different races and national origins. The parent organization of each respective event has no choice but to consider the importance of intellectual property protection in order to ensure its viability and commercial success as it enters foreign markets with varying levels of IP protection. Fortunately, in this context, there may be valuable lessons to learn from the past.

In 2008, the Summer Olympic Games were hosted in Beijing, China. Prior to the games, there were multiple scholarly commentaries on the challenges that the International Olympic Committee may face in hosting the games in a country historically referred to as an “intellectual property black hole.”[1] One such commentary examined the “intellectual property rights challenges inherent in hosting [events such as] the Olympic Games, the history and current state of IP protection in China, the protectionary measures typically employed by [an] Olympic host country, the protectionary measures China has taken with respect to Olympic intellectual property to date, and the challenges that China will face in protecting [the intellectual property of the International Olympic Committee.”[2] Clearly, the importance of IP protection and IP valuation in global expansion is critical for success, and there is a great deal to be learned from the experiences of those who came before. [3]

In conclusion, the UFC can help to ensure the success of its global expansion initiatives by understanding the challenges faced by and the protectionary measures implemented by similarly-positioned predecessors. In future articles, I will continue to elaborate on this topic, and I will assess numerous considerations that are particularly critical to the global expansion of Zuffa LLC by drawing parallels between the Olympic Games, UFC events, and each event’s respective host organization.

[1] Jennifer L. Donatuti, Can China Protect The Olympics, Or Should The Olympics Be Protected From China?, 15 J. Intell. Prop. L. 203, 205 (2007).

[2] Jennifer L. Donatuti, Can China Protect The Olympics, Or Should The Olympics Be Protected From China?, 15 J. Intell. Prop. L. 203, 205 (2007).

[3] Michael A. Gollin, Driving Innovation: Intellectual Property Strategies for a Dynamic World 207 (2008).

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