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What sets the UFC apart from the other sports organizations I’ve worked for is the exponential growth we’ve experienced
Director of Event Development
Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC)
The Event Development department essentially acts as the hub of the wheel for the company, because we are responsible for establishing our annual event calendar and TV programming schedule. I manage our global schedule of 40+ events, which includes booking, routing, and negotiating the venue agreements. I am the main point of contact between all the arenas we work with, so I also handle the venue relations side of things.
Once I confirm the venue agreement, I connect the various internal groups (PR, Event Marketing, Ticketing, Production, etc.) to start the planning process and make sure everything goes off without a hitch.
I also work closely with our TV partner, ESPN, on programming dates for our events, and what platforms they will air on.
In addition to my event scheduling duties, I oversee all of our experiential operations – UFC Fan Experience, an immersive and engaging series of touchpoints between our fans and the brand at our live events, and International Fight Week, our annual (Super Bowl type) event that includes concerts, athlete meet & greets parties, and Hall of Fame induction ceremony, culminating with a UFC Pay-Per-View event.
Most recently, I took on the booking and venue management for UFC APEX, our brand new, state of the art production facility.
Being with the company for eight years now, you learn there’s no “typical day” at UFC, and you wear many hats; there are new challenges to tackle or projects to take on. One of the things that separate us from the other major pro sports organizations is that we do not have an off-season. We are full steam ahead all year round, so there’s never a dull moment!
I was promoted to my current position at the beginning of 2019. When I was the Event Marketing Manager, which is under the Event Development umbrella, I focused more on how to increase ticket revenue and market awareness. This also included in-depth market research and analysis of data to help us choose the markets we bring live events to.
I would also advance the markets with our Director of Event Marketing, where we would go into the market a few months in advance to meet with the arena, partners, and local media outlets (radio, TV, publications), to help us put together a go-to-market campaign for the ticket on-sale. All of this experience helped me build a strong understanding of what goes into the planning of our events and really prepared me for the role I am in today.
We’re always looking to be innovative and cutting edge.
Our social media presence is a key factor in embracing millennial fans; we put fan engagement at the forefront of our social strategy. In recent years, we’ve really leaned into creating more unique and memorable onsite experiences.
At our events, we create innovative and accessible activations to attract a younger, digital-savvy audience.
For example, fans can experience what it’s like to be a fighter by creating a GIF of their own walkouts to the UFC Octagon, or an “instagrammable” moment with the replica UFC championship belt.
What sets the UFC apart from the other sports organizations I’ve worked for is the exponential growth we’ve experienced. In just a short few years, we’ve really blown up. I think the reason for that is the company’s desire to be innovative. We have a very collaborative, non-corporate environment. The mentality of the organization is very forward-thinking, and there’s a willingness to try new things.
Before I started at UFC, I was just a casual fan of the sport. I would only watch the big PPV events with a group of friends at a sports bar, and only knew a handful of the star athletes like Georges St-Pierre and Chuck Liddell. It wasn’t until I started working for UFC where I became more educated on the sport and grew a newfound respect for the level of talent that competes inside the Octagon.
I was one of those rare college students who knew exactly what I wanted to do for a living, which was to work in the sports and live events industry.
When I was researching degree programs, I found that Tourism Development and Management included coursework in sports management, special events planning, convention sales & management, and communications. I also found it beneficial to learn about the tourism industry, as it complements the work I do today. I knew it was a perfect fit.
Volunteer work was highly encouraged in my degree program; so much so, they made a certain amount of hours mandatory to earn a degree. I was eager to start, so I applied to every program that sparked my interest. Luckily, my school was located in Downtown Phoenix, so I lived in walking distance to the Phoenix Suns arena and Diamondbacks stadium.
I got my first volunteer position with the Phoenix Suns by cold calling and asking them if there was any way I could help. It happened to be the year Phoenix hosted the NBA All-Star Game (2009), so the arena was in need of volunteers to assist with promotions. They brought me on as a member of their Volunteer Committee, and the rest is history!
Having a clear vision of what I wanted to do has had a strong impact on my career. I’ve never been afraid to reach out, network, and volunteer wherever I could in order to gain experience and build strong relationships in the field of work I am passionate about.
From fan to full time, Olivia Judkowitz acts as the “hub of the wheel” for the UFC. Her role as Director of Event Development requires her to manage all events on a wide range and scale all throughout the year (UFC does not have an offseason). Exciting and lively, Olivia is responsible for the planning and implementation of all major events that fans tune in to see such as the big PPV events. Olivia Judkowitz’s transition from marketing to events has surely be paramount to her success in connecting millennial fans to the brand. After all, Olivia understands the importance of fan engagement in creating unique and memorable onsite experiences.