UFC sold to WME-IMG for $4 billion

LOS ANGELES – The UFC has been sold for approximately $4 billion (Dh 14.7 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 messages to The Associated Press on Sunday night.

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 came out of the deal with only a minority interest.

• More: Action from UFC 200, featuring Brock Lesnar | Photos

The New York Times first reported the completion of the long-rumoured deal. It has financial backing from private equity firms Silver Lake Partners, which owns WME-IMG, and Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, along with the investment firm of billionaire Michael Dell, founder of Dell Computers.

The Fertitta brothers and White purchased the promotion for $2 million in 2001. With 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 MMA gained widespread acceptance and increasing popularity.

The UFC was founded in 1993 as the Ultimate Fighting Championship, staging violent fights that were banned or unregulated in most areas. After the Fertitta brothers and White took over, they steadily built their company and MMA into a thriving sport with ever-increasing worldwide appeal, using cable television and the internet to get it in front of young fans.

The promotion now boasts a stable of fighters with mainstream fame, including Conor McGregor, Brock Lesnar and Ronda Rousey, who is represented by WME.

On Saturday night, the promotion staged UFC 200 in its hometown. The event drew 18,202 fans to T-Mobile Arena and took in $10.8 million in ticket sales, both Nevada records for the company.

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