The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) has been sold for approximately $4 billion to a group led by Hollywood talent agency WME-IMG.
UFC president Dana White confirmed the sale of the mixed martial arts promotional company in text message.
WME co-CEO Ari Emanuel also announced the sale an internal company email that included SNTV — a joint venture between The Associated Press and IMG.
“We’ve been honoured to have UFC and a number of its athletes as clients and couldn’t be happier to take our relationship to this next level as the organisation’s owner and operating partner,” Mr Emanuel said.
Mr White will stay on to run the UFC, which has grown from a money-losing promotion in a minor sport into a global entertainment brand.
UFC owners Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta have tapped out of the company after nearly 16 years, although they’ll retain a minority interest.
The Abu Dhabi government still owns 10% of the UFC as well.
The New York Times first reported the completion of the long-rumoured deal. Among its backers is the investment firm of billionaire Michael Dell, founder of Dell Computers.
The UFC was founded in 1993 as the Ultimate Fighting Championship, staging violent fights that were banned or unregulated in many areas.
The Fertitta brothers and Mr White, their high school friend, purchased the promotion for $2 million in 2001.
With Mr White as the promotional face and Lorenzo Fertitta as its chairman, the Las Vegas-based UFC was kept afloat by the Fertittas’ casino fortune while the sport once labelled by John McCain as “human cockfighting” gradually gained widespread acceptance and popularity.
The UFC used cable television and the internet to get its intriguing product in front of young fans, and they also sought legitimacy by welcoming regulation by athletic commissions.
New York finally lifted its ban on MMA earlier this year, putting the sport in all 50 states.
After helping Chuck Liddell, Randy Couture and Tito Ortiz become stars who straddled the line between sports and entertainment, the promotion now boasts a stable of elite athletes with mainstream fame, including Conor McGregor, Brock Lesnar and Ronda Rousey, who is represented by WME.
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