Throughout his boxing career, former world heavyweight champion Mike Tyson knocked out 44 opponents. Now, 14 years after retiring from boxing, Tyson wants to get another knockout, this time in esports.
On Thursday, Tyson announced a strategic investment in Fade 2 Karma, a professional esports team best known for its time in Hearthstone.
As a result, Fade 2 Karma will construct a new streaming facility near Los Angeles in El Segundo, California, the home base of Tyson Ranch, a marijuana company owned by Tyson.
The new facility, called "The Ranch House," will include private livestreaming rooms, a performance stage for tournaments, content production and a rooftop party deck. Connected to the facility will be a new entertainment production studio, operated by Fade 2 Karma.
On Wednesday, Tyson joined many of the Fade 2 Karma professional Hearthstone players for a livestreaming session broadcasted on Alexandra "Alliestrasza" Macpherson's Twitch channel. It was the first time the former pro boxer competed in Hearthstone, although he said he had played other games, including Call of Duty, in the past.
"It was pretty awesome. I had the opportunity to really engage with some millennials, which I never really actually do," Tyson told ESPN on Thursday. "This is the first time, and I thought it was pretty awesome. We played Hearthstone. I really sucked real bad. You have to start somewhere. I played games before, so I'm going to start over and see what happens from here."
Tyson said that he first got interested in the esports industry via his son, who is both a gamer and a fan of professional esports competitions. From there, Tyson tasked his team at the Tyson Ranch to find an opportunity that made sense -- with Fade 2 Karma, he said, emerging as an option that felt like the perfect fit. He said he believes the future of the esports industry will be gigantic.
Fade 2 Karma was founded by German Hearthstone and Magic: The Gathering player Tim "Theude" Bergmann in July 2015. Since then, the team has expanded to include competitive Hearthstone players and streamers from all around the world, including the likes of the United Kingdom, Canada, Sweden, Israel and the United States.
Outside of esports, Tyson is developing the Tyson Ranch Resort, a 420-acre entertainment complex, luxury glamping resort and cannabis research and design facility in Desert Hot Springs, California, about a two-hour drive east from Los Angeles. Tyson, his business partners and California City mayor Jennifer Wood attended a groundbreaking ceremony for the site in December.
In other ventures, Tyson completed a one-man show residency in Las Vegas for his "Undisputed Truth: Round 2" in late 2017. Tyson said he is interested in potentially doing another one-man show project in the future, but for now, he is focusing on Tyson Ranch.
Tyson joins a growing list of celebrity athletes who have invested in esports in the past five years. Some, including Rick Fox, who won three NBA titles with the Los Angeles Lakers in the early 2000s, and Golden State Warriors forward Jonas Jerebko, have taken an active role in their organizations -- being involved in strategy, planning and execution. Other celebs, such as former New York Yankees star Alex Rodriguez and musicians Jennifer Lopez and Drake, have taken passive roles.
Overall, the industry continues to become a new frontier for investors looking to capitalize on the future of sports. In 2019, the industry is projected to eclipse $1 billion in annual revenue, according to a report by analytics firm Newzoo.