UFC's ownership group has agreed to sell nearly its entire stake in the mixed martial arts company to the WME-IMG group for $4 billion, the company announced on Monday.
"We've been fortunate over the years to represent UFC and a number of its remarkable athletes," said WME | IMG Co-CEOs Ariel Emanuel and Patrick Whitesell said in a press release. "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."
The primary owners of UFC, Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta, held an 80 percent stake under their parent company, Zuffa. White, who owned nine percent of UFC, ran the day-to-day operations of Zuffa and served as UFC's president, will continue in that role following the sale. The Fertittas and White will each retain small minority ownership percentages following the sale.
The $4 billion sum to be paid for UFC is is expected to be the largest in sports history. It marks a nearly 2,000 percent return for Zuffa, which bought UFC for $2 million in 2001.
Dana White (@danawhite) on future involvement: Same. President, owner, working my ass off. Just doing it without my best friend and partner.— Brett Okamoto (@bokamotoESPN) July 11, 2016
When the news broke early Monday morning, White simply tweeted out a grinning emoji.
😃— Dana White (@danawhite) July 11, 2016
UFC released a statement to its fighters early Monday morning, confirming the sale of the company.
"From the moment Zuffa, LLC purchased UFC over 15 years ago, you, the athletes, have always been the central focus of the promotion. That will not change. WME | IMG, who has been involved with UFC for many years, is focused on the continued global expansion of mixed martial arts and committed to further promoting you on the global stage," reads the release.
White had previously denied that the UFC was for sale when initial reports came out in May that the company was in discussions with multiple bidders. He has continued to deny that UFC was for sale since, but paperwork was reportedly signed on Saturday.
"No other sport compares to UFC," White said in a press release. "Our goal has always been to put on the biggest and the best fights for our fans, and to make this the biggest sport in the world. I'm looking forward to working with WME | IMG to continue to take this sport to the next level."
WME | IMG are joined by a Michael Dell-headed private equity group and global investment firm KKR as UFC's new ownership group.