UFC has been sold for $4 billion in a deal announced Monday.
Talent agency WME-IMG revealed that it is partnering with its owner Silver Lake Partners, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts and MSD Capital, the investment firm of Michael Dell, to take over the mixed martial arts company.
'We've been fortunate over the years to represent UFC and a number of its remarkable athletes,' WME-IMG co-CEOs Ari Emanuel and Patrick Whitesell said in a statement. 'It's been exciting to watch the organization's incredible growth over the last decade under the leadership of the Fertitta brothers, Dana White and their dedicated team. We're now committed to pursuing new opportunities for UFC and its talented athletes to ensure the sport's continued growth and success on a global scale.'
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At $4 billion, it stands to be the most expensive transaction for an organization in sports history.
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Reached Sunday night by ESPN, UFC president Dana White, who had adamantly denied the organization was for sale for the past two months after ESPN had reported that it was on the auction block, said the sale was bittersweet.
He said fans should not be concerned about the change in ownership.
'Exact opposite,' White said. 'Sport is going to the next level.'
The sale is remarkable considering that brothers Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta bought the organization in 2000 for $2 million.
The price paid for UFC is roughly seven times its gross revenue, as chairman Lorenzo Fertitta told CNN that the organization took in about $600 million in 2015.
'We're confident that the new ownership team of WME-IMG, with whom we've built a strong relationship over the last several years, is committed to accelerating UFC's global growth,' Fertitta said in a statement. 'Most importantly, our new owners share the same vision and passion for this organization and its athletes.'
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Fertitta will step down as part of the deal, although the brothers will retain a minority interest. White, who owned 9 percent of UFC, will stay on and be given a stake in the new business.
The Abu Dhabi government still owns 10 percent of UFC as well.
White should help smooth the transition in a volatile sport. Last year saw the rise of Conor McGregor and Ronda Rousey, while this year saw them fall.
UFC 200 over the weekend exemplified the sport's volatility: After McGregor was pulled from the card, Daniel Cormier-Jon Jones was scheduled for the main event, but Jones tested positive for a banned substance and Anderson Silva signed on at the last minute. Much of the buzz the event generated could be attributed to Brock Lesnar, who was rented from WWE.
Industry insiders told ESPN they believe Rousey will remain a WME-IMG client because her fight contracts were never negotiated by the agency, which has been responsible for negotiating her business outside the Octagon.
UFC makes most of its money from pay-per-view broadcasts, but the organization also has a cable deal with Fox that expires at the end of 2018. The new deal is expected to be worth at least $200 million a year if UFC continues on an upward trajectory.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Fans will be in attendance when the UFC returns to “Fight Island” in Abu Dhabi for a three-event stint starting next week.
And early Friday in the U.S., tickets already were gone not long after they went on sale for UFC 257 on Jan. 23. at Etihad Arena on Yas Island. That event features a rematch between former lightweight and featherweight champion Conor McGregor and former interim lightweight champ Dustin Poirier. Free vegas slots no download no register.
Tickets that started at $795 Arab Emirates Dirham (about $216 USD) and went all the way up to $4,995 AED ($1,360 USD) all show as sold out at Etihad Arena’s official website.
The website also lists an abundance of health and safety rules that must be adhered to by fans, and though a total number of tickets available was not announced, the site says “seating capacity has been reduced to comply with social distancing rules.”
According to TSN’s Aaron Bronsteter, who reports addition information provided by the UFC, “the capacity for the UFC event per fight will be around 2,000 spectators.”
Tickets remain available for UFC on ABC 1 next Saturday, as well as UFC on ESPN 20, which takes place Wednesday, Jan. 20. UFC on ABC 1 will be headlined by a featherweight fight between former champion Max Holloway and Calvin Kattar. Four days later, Michael Chiesa meets Neil Magny in the UFC on ESPN 20 main event. Tickets start at $595 AED ($162 USD)
The three events will be the first time since March 2020 that the UFC will have fans in attendance. After getting past the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic and cancellations of events, White and the UFC eventually put on a series of events without fans in Jacksonville, Fla., then have made the UFC Apex in Las Vegas its semi-permanent home, also without fans. In addition, the UFC twice in 2020 made multi-event visits to “Fight Island” in Abu Dhabi for fight cards without fans.
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But the big-splash finale for the three-event run in Abu Dhabi over the course of just seven days is UFC 257, which will feature a rematch between former lightweight and featherweight champion Conor McGregor and former interim lightweight champ Dustin Poirier.
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McGregor is the UFC’s biggest draw by far. He has headlined all but three of his 12 career UFC fights, including his past seven on pay-per-view. In January 2020, he fought Donald Cerrone and generated a reported 1 million pay-per-view buys, which was his lowest number since UFC 189 did a reported 825,000 buys for his interim featherweight title win over Chad Mendes. His UFC 229 submission loss to Khabib Nurmagomedov generated a reported UFC record 2.4 million buys.
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Where the UFC will have to suffer likely significant losses are in the live gate totals that McGregor fights typically have generated, mostly in Las Vegas. His UFC 246 fight against Cerrone ha a live gate in excess of $11 million at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. UFC 229 at T-Mobile Arena and UFC 205 at Madison Square Garden in New York each generated more than $17 million in live gate totals – an MMA record, as well as the Garden’s gate record.