Gravitas Ventures Acquires Doc ‘Stylebender’ About UFC Star Israel Adesanja

Gravitas Ventures has acquired the documentary Stylebender, about UFC middleweight star Israel Adesanya, for North American distribution. 

Directed by Zoë McIntosh, the film premiered in the documentary competition at the 2023 Tribeca Film Festival. The film is an examination of the complex and sometimes controversial figure known as “The Last Stylebender.” It is an intimate look at Adesanya, the Nigerian-born, New Zealand-based MMA champion, that goes beyond the ring and delves deep into an unlikely fighter’s journey, exploring Adesanya’s experiences of masculinity, bullying, mental health and the healing power of dance. 

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“After screening Stylebender in Tribeca, I could feel in my bones there was something supremely special about this film, and about Adesanya’s story,” Danielle Gasher, VP of acquisitions and international sales at Gravitas Ventures, said in a statement. “There is a vulnerable and deeply human quality to the film, which I believe will be felt far and large by audiences across North America.”

Roku Channel to Stream Documentary Series ‘Fight Inc. — Inside the UFC’

Streaming platform Roku and martial arts organization UFC Nov. 9 announced plans to bring a three-part Roku original documentary series titled “Fight Inc. — Inside the UFC” to The Roku Channel.

“Fight Inc. — Inside the UFC” will celebrate three decades of the UFC and give viewers an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at pivotal moments at the UFC during the organization’s 30th anniversary year. The UFC officially celebrates its 30th anniversary Nov. 11, with UFC 295: Prochazka vs. Pereira live from Madison Square Garden in New York City.
 
“Fight Inc. — Inside the UFC” will provide fans with unprecedented access to UFC CEO Dana White and his team as they peel back the curtain for a look at the daily grind and endless problem-solving in the fight business, including rebuilding fight cards on the fly for major events, according to Roku. The series will also chronicle key storylines featuring the biggest stars in UFC, highlighted by:

  • former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones, as he prepares to return after a three-year hiatus to face the weight of expectations and the demons of doubt;
  • the emergence of Sean O’Malley, who’s fighting for the bantamweight title and the chance to become the next UFC superstar;
  • Israel Adesanya and Alexander Volkanovski, both teammates and champions who dare to be great, with mixed results; and
  • female fighter Amanda Nunes as she headlines an event fraught with challenges for the UFC team.

 

“For 30 years, the UFC has enthralled millions of fans around the world with an athletic competition unlike any other,” Brian Tannenbaum, head of originals at Roku Media said in a statement. “Roku Original series ‘Fight Inc. — Inside the UFC’ commemorates three decades of this iconic organization, while also giving audiences an exclusive look into the UFC of today.”

“’Fight Inc. — Inside the UFC’ gives our audience a front row seat and unprecedented access into one the world’s most exciting sports,” Joe Franzetta, head of sports at Roku Media, said in a statement. “As we expand our Roku Sports offering, we look forward to bringing millions of viewers the opportunity to discover unique and exclusive programming from their favorite professional sports teams and leagues both within The Roku Channel and through the integrated viewing experiences only available on the Roku platform.”

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“We’re excited to team up with Roku to give UFC fans a rare look at this sport and this organization as we plan for our biggest events during a year filled with huge moments,” Craig Borsari, chief content officer and executive producer at UFC, said in a statement. “The storylines happening outside of the Octagon — the ones fans don’t often see or hear about — are compelling in their own right. We’re very proud of this project and we’re looking forward to debuting it on The Roku Channel next year.”

UFC, WWE to Merge Creating $21 Billion Global Live Sports and Entertainment Company

Endeavor Group Holdings, the media parent to the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), and World Wrestling Entertainment on April 3 announced that they have signed a definitive merger agreement to form a new, publicly listed company consisting of mixed martial arts and professional wrestling promotions and content creation. Upon close of the $9.3 billion transaction, Endeavor will hold a 51% controlling interest in the new company and existing WWE shareholders will hold a 49% stake in the new company.

In 2022, UFC and WWE achieved combined revenue of $2.4 billion and a 10% annual revenue growth rate since 2019.

Ariel Emanuel, CEO of Endeavor, will head the the new combined company, while WWE founder Vincent McMahon becomes executive chairman of the board of directors. Mark Shapiro will become president and chief operating officer of both Endeavor and the new company. Dana White will continue in his role as president of UFC and Nick Khan will serve as president of WWE.

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The board will consist of 11 members who will be appointed at a later date, six of whom will be appointed by Endeavor and five of whom by WWE.

“This is a rare opportunity to create a global live sports and entertainment pureplay built for where the industry is headed,” Emanuel said in a statement. “For decades, Vince and his team have demonstrated an incredible track record of innovation and shareholder value creation, and we are confident that Endeavor can deliver significant additional value for shareholders by bringing UFC and WWE together.”

McMahon said the combined company is a $21+ billion live sports and entertainment powerhouse with a collective fanbase of more than a billion people worldwide.

“The new company will be well positioned to maximize the value of our combined media rights, enhance sponsorship monetization, develop new forms of content, including movies and TV shows, and pursue other strategic mergers and acquisitions to further bolster our strong stable of brands,” McMahon said.

Endeavor expects significant growth across revenue areas, including domestic and international media rights, ticket sales and yield optimization, event operations, sponsorship, licensing and premium hospitality. Endeavor’s success at UFC includes increasing commercial opportunities that have driven more than 200% pre-tax earnings growth since its acquisition in late 2016.

In January 2021, NBCUniversal’s Peacock streaming platform became the exclusive American distributor of the WWE Network, the company’s subscription streaming platform with about 1.5 million paid subscribers.

Action Thriller ‘Mojave Diamonds’ Due Via Digital and DVD May 30

The action thriller Mojave Diamonds will be released via on demand, digital sellthrough and DVD May 30 from Lionsgate.

UFC superstars Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone, Chael Sonnen and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson star in the film.

Cerrone plays Roy, a fighter who runs afoul of the Vegas mob and must run a $50 million shipment of diamonds to Mexico. He brings his G.l. brother Danny, but the shipment is stolen by a rival gang, and brother Joe’s family is abducted as punishment. Now the three siblings must join forces to penetrate the mob compound and rescue their loved ones — no matter how many lives it costs.

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MMA Film ‘Never Back Down: Revolt’ Heads to Digital, Disc on Nov. 16

Never Back Down: Revolt, the fourth and newest entry in Sony Pictures Home Entertainment’s MMA franchise, will be released through digital retailers and on DVD and Blu-ray Disc Nov. 16.

The film revolves around an amateur fighter (Olivia Popica) who is recruited by a trafficking syndicate specializing in elite underground fighting, where her brutal captor (Michael Bisping) forces her to fight or face certain death.

The film was written by Audrey Arkins, directed by Kellie Madison and produced by Craig Baumgarten, David Zelon and Ben Jacques.

Aside from Popica, the cast includes former UFC champion Michael Bisping, Nitu Chandra Srivasttava, Brooke Johnston, Diana Hoyos and James Faulkner.

The original Never Back Down was released in 2008. The film was directed by Jeff Wadlow and stars Sean Faris, Amber Heard, Cam Gigandet, and Djimon Hounsou. The plot follows a conflicted teenager who arrives at a new high school to discover an underground fight club.

‘Invincible Dragon’ Due on Disc and Digital Oct. 6 From Well Go

The Chinese action-adventure Invincible Dragon will debut on digital, Blu-ray and DVD Oct. 6 from Well Go USA Entertainment.

Featuring action superstar Max Zhang (Ip Man 3Master Z: Ip Man Legacy), the film is directed by Fruit Chan (The Midnight After) with a supporting cast that includes champion UFC fighter Anderson Silva (Never SurrenderTapped Out), Kevin Cheng (Master Z: The Ip Man Legacy) and Stephy Tang (The Empty Hands).

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In the film, when a brilliant but trigger-happy detective (Zhang) is outsmarted by a serial killer, he pays a high price for his momentary lapse in judgment. Robbed of both his fiancée and his job, he soon spirals out of control and goes back to what he knows best: fighting. Unbeknownst to him, a serendipitous reunion with an old rival (Silva) may be the key to unlocking the truth about his fiancée’s disappearance — and to apprehending the killer.

Jaime Pollack Named Chief Revenue Officer for Fight Media Group

Anthem Sports & Entertainment June 25 named longtime video game/pro wrestling executive Jaime Pollack as chief revenue officer for Fight Media Group. In this newly created position, Pollack will oversee all revenue generation for Fight Media, which includes Fight Network and IMPACT Wrestling promotion. Pollack will report directly to Ed Nordholm, president of Fight Media Group and chief corporate officer for Anthem. He joins Anthem on July 1 and will be based in Los Angeles.

“Jaime truly has a wide breadth of experience in all facets of the sports spectrum — from the cutting-edge realm of esports to the most popular mixed martial arts promotion in the world,” Nordholm said in a statement. “He brings an incredible pedigree to the table, having forged worldwide success with major brands such as the UFC and Activision Blizzard. This unique skill set could not be more relevant today and, as Fight Media Group continues to grow and expand, his unparalleled expertise and diverse network of connections in these arenas will accelerate our revenue growth.”

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Prior to joining Anthem, Pollack served as VP of media and business development at Activision Blizzard. He was directly responsible for esports media and distribution around the launches of the Overwatch and Call of Duty Leagues, including negotiating the first major e-sports digital streaming deal on Amazon’s Twitch platform, securing esports linear television broadcast partnerships with ABC, Disney XD and ESPN, and creating new cross-Atlantic media distribution in key European and Asian markets.

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Jaime Pollack

Prior to Activision Blizzard, Pollack held several different high-level positions with the MMA powerhouse UFC for over a decade. As SVP, global content and GM of Latin America, Pollack helped take UFC from a domestic fight promoter to a mainstream multi-billion-dollar global sports property. He spearheaded the UFC’s landmark launch in Brazil and helped rapidly expand the organization across Latin America. Under his direction, UFC launched UFC Network, conducted major live worldwide-televised events, created platforms for blue-chip sponsors, and developed local fighter talent. Pollack also drove production of the first international seasons of the reality series “The Ultimate Fighter,” leading to successful ratings, brand awareness, business growth and mainstream embracing of MMA on television. Additionally, he served as president of Pride Fighting Championship in Japan after UFC’s takeover, and he has established dozens of other major media, marketing and brand partnerships globally. Prior to joining the UFC, Pollack was a media attorney at NBCUniversal Television Group.

UFC Hooks Up with ESPN Streaming Video Service

Walt Disney is getting into the octagon.

Mixed martial arts league UFC and The Walt Disney Co. May 8 announced a multi-year media rights agreement for exclusive live UFC content on ESPN+, as well as across a variety of ESPN’s television, social and digital platforms, in English and Spanish, taking effect next January.

The inaugural distribution agreement provides for 15 live UFC events to stream exclusively on ESPN+, the recently-launched $4.99 monthly direct-to-consumer subscription streaming service, in partnership with ESPN.  Each event will be branded “UFC on ESPN+ Fight Night” and will deliver a full card of 12 UFC bouts.

“One of our goals for ESPN+ is to bring sports fans of all genres content they love and are passionate about, and this agreement with UFC is illustrative of exactly that,” Kevin Mayer, chairman, direct to consumer and international, at Disney, said in a statement.

With more than 280 million fans around the world, UFC boasts the youngest fan base among major professional sports organizations in the U.S., with a median age of 40 and an audience comprising 40% millennials.

In addition to the live events and content included in the ESPN+ subscription, fight fans will be able to purchase and watch UFC Fight Pass (UFC’s OTT streaming offering) and UFC PPV events via ESPN+, for a separate cost.

“We will now have the ability to deliver fights to our young fan base wherever they are and whenever they want it,” said Dana White, president of the UFC.

ESPN will also showcase a variety of UFC content across ESPN’s linear and digital platforms, including 30-minute specials previewing upcoming bouts; hundreds of hours of UFC library programming; and re-airs of current UFC PPV events.

The ESPN App and ESPN+ are available on mobile and TV-connected devices and on ESPN.com. The new ESPN App with ESPN+ is available on devices and platforms including Amazon (Fire TV, Fire Stick, Fire Smart TVs, Fire tablets), Android (Android phones, Android TV), Apple (iPhone, iPad, Apple TV and supported in the Apple TV App), Chromecast and Roku.