Dana White has confirmed the long-speculated selling of the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
UFC ownership group has agreed to sell the company to the WME-IMG group for $4 billion after nearly two months of rumors and speculation, as confirmed by president Dana White in interviews with ESPN and The Associated Press.
ESPN cites that WWE-IMG co-CEO Ari Emanuel also announced the sale early Monday morning in an internal company email. Emanuel states: “We’ve been honored 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 organization’s owner and operating partner.”
Much like the UFC, WWE-IMG, a merged talent agency and sports and fashion figure known for representing the NFL, has drastically grown in recent years following their purchase of Professional Bull Riders and the Miss Universe pageant.
The UFC is recognized as one of the fastest growing sports organizations as the pay-per-view numbers increase and the live gate reaching up to $12 million alone.
Owners Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta acquired the UFC in 2000 for $2 million and have since helped to expand the company to year earnings of nearly $250 million.
WME_IMG co-CEOs Ari Emanuel and Patrick Whitesell will serve as the operating owner of the organization while Dana White maintains his place and share in the company.
The Fertittas will also be maintaining some stake in the organization as the UFC, as Dana White stated, is “going to the next level” as it continues to grow into the largest professional sports league in the world.
The official statement released by the promotion regarding the acquisition reads:
“BEVERLY HILLS, CA (July 11, 2016) – WME | IMG today announced the acquisition of UFC, the world’s premier professional mixed martial arts (MMA) organization.
A global leader in entertainment and sports with a portfolio of more than 800 owned, operated and/or commercially represented events, WME | IMG will also serve as UFC’s operating partner. WME | IMG, which has a proven track record of building leading sports brands, will focus on accelerating the sport’s popularity and presence around the world. Silver Lake Partners and KKR will join WME | IMG as new strategic investors, along with MSD Capital, L.P. and MSD Partners, L.P. which will provide preferred equity financing.
“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. “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.”
Founded in 1993, UFC is one of the largest and fastest growing sports brands in the world, particularly among millennials. The organization produces more than 40 live events annually and is the largest Pay-Per-View event provider in the world, broadcast in over 156 countries and territories, to nearly 1.1 billion television households worldwide, in 29 different languages. UFC continues to capitalize on digital distribution platforms via its wholly-owned subscription over-the-top service, FIGHT PASS, delivering exclusive live events, thousands of fights on-demand and original content to fans around the globe.
UFC held its much-anticipated UFC 200 event in Las Vegas on July 9. Since its centennial event in 2009, UFC has undertaken a number of measures to increase awareness among fans globally, expanding its presence in Europe, Latin America and Asia, and adding women’s divisions. The organization has also led the way among sports in promoting athlete safety. UFC is one of the largest contributors to the Cleveland Clinic’s Professional Fighters Brain Health Study, and it has the most robust drug testing program in professional sports administered by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA).
“No other sport compares to UFC,” remarked Dana White, UFC’s President who will continue in that role. “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.”
Lorenzo J. Fertitta, Chairman and CEO, UFC, said: “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. Most importantly, our new owners share the same vision and passion for this organization and its athletes.”
Upon closing, Lorenzo Fertitta will step down from day-to-day operations, but Frank Fertitta III and Lorenzo Fertitta will both retain a passive minority interest in the organization.
WME | IMG’s strategic investment partners include leading global investment firms Silver Lake and KKR who have a track record of growing strong business enterprises in diverse industries together.
Silver Lake first made a strategic minority investment in WME in 2012 to support the company’s development of new business models and distribution channels leveraging the convergence of content creation and technology. Silver Lake subsequently reinvested in WME and supported its management team in the company’s 2014 acquisition of IMG.
Since 2015, WME | IMG and Silver Lake have completed a number of acquisitions to expand WME | IMG’s capabilities and client services globally and to broaden its owned event portfolio and content offerings through properties like the Professional Bull Riders, Inc. (PBR). The PBR Built Ford Tough Series has broken ten event attendance records and increased television viewership over 20% in 2016 following WME | IMG’s acquisition. As part of WME | IMG’s platform, UFC will leverage the same global relationships and capabilities to accelerate its growth trajectory.
In addition to its sports marketing and global events portfolio, WME | IMG also represents a diverse roster of artists and content creators across every entertainment vertical, including motion picture, television, music, books, digital and theater. Its sports client roster ranges from professional athletes to sports federations and leagues to more than 200 collegiate institutions. The company also works with top-100 global advertisers to develop meaningful consumer platforms and helps new and iconic brands optimize their licensing potential.
Each year, IMG produces more than 52,000 hours of sports programming and arranges to distribute an additional 32,000 hours on behalf of more than 200 clients including major sports leagues and associations like The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club (Wimbledon), the National Football League, Premier League, Major League Soccer and Euroleague. The company also operates one of the largest sports training institutions in the world, IMG Academy.
The UFC transaction is subject to customary closing conditions. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.
Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, Kirkland & Ellis LLP, Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP, and Proskauer Rose LLP served as legal advisors to the buying group and Freshfields served as legal advisor to MSD Capital. Barclays, Credit Suisse Securities (USA) LLC, Deutsche Bank Securities Inc., affiliates of Goldman, Sachs & Co., and KKR Capital Markets LLC (in alphabetical order) are acting as the buyers’ financial advisors and are providing financing for the transaction.
The transaction was led for the sellers by UFC CFO Nakisa Bidarian, with Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy LLP as legal advisors, and The Raine Group and J.P. Morgan as financial advisors.
# # #
UFC® is a premium global sports brand and the largest pay-per-view event provider in the world. Headquartered in Las Vegas with offices in London, Toronto, São Paulo and Singapore, UFC produces more than 40 live events annually that consistently sell out some of the most prestigious arenas around the globe. UFC programming is broadcast in over 156 countries and territories to more than 1.1 billion TV households worldwide in 29 different languages. UFC FIGHT PASS®, a digital subscription service, delivers exclusive live events, thousands of fights on-demand and original content to fans around the world.
About WME | IMG
WME | IMG is a global leader in entertainment, sports and fashion operating in more than 30 countries. Named one of Fortune’s 25 Most Important Private Companies, the company specializes in talent representation and management; brand strategy, activation and licensing; media production, sales and distribution; and event production and management.
About Silver Lake Partners
Silver Lake is the global leader in technology investing, with over $24 billion in combined assets under management and committed capital. The firm’s portfolio of investments collectively generates more than $100 billion of revenue annually and employs more than 210,000 people globally. Silver Lake has a team of approximately 100 investment and value creation professionals located in London, New York, Menlo Park, San Mateo, Hong Kong and Tokyo. The firm’s current portfolio includes leading technology and technology-enabled businesses such as Alibaba Group, Avaya, Broadcom Limited, Cast & Crew, Ctrip, Dell, Global Blue, GoDaddy, Intelsat, Motorola Solutions, Quorum Business Solutions, Red Ventures, Sabre, Smart Modular, Solar Winds, Vantage Data Centers, and WME | IMG.
For more information about Silver Lake and its entire portfolio, please visitwww.silverlake.com.
KKR is a leading global investment firm that manages investments across multiple asset classes including private equity, energy, infrastructure, real estate, credit and hedge funds. KKR aims to generate attractive investment returns by following a patient and disciplined investment approach, employing world‐class people, and driving growth and value creation at the asset level. KKR invests its own capital alongside its partners’ capital and brings opportunities to others through its capital markets business. References to KKR’s investments may include the activities of its sponsored funds. For additional information about KKR & Co. L.P. (NYSE:KKR), please visit KKR’s website at www.kkr.com and on Twitter @KKR_Co.
About MSD Capital, L.P. and MSD Partners, L.P.
MSD Capital, L.P. is the private investment firm that was established in 1998 to exclusively manage the capital of Michael Dell and his family. The firm’s investment strategy is focused on maximizing long-term capital appreciation by making investments across the globe in the equities of public and private companies, credit, real estate and other asset classes and securities. MSD Private Capital Group leads MSD Capital’s control equity and structured preferred investments into outstanding businesses with world-class management teams. In 2009, the principals of MSD Capital formed MSD Partners, L.P., an SEC-registered investment adviser, to enable a select group of investors to invest in strategies that were developed by MSD Capital. MSD Capital and MSD Partners are headquartered in New York. In total, the firms manage assets in excess of $15 billion.”
UFC looks for undefeated fighters for the next season of TUF
As the latest season of The Ultimate Fighter comes to a close in a few weeks, UFC has set tryouts for the next season of The Ultimate Fighter on December 12th but there is a catch, participates must hold an undefeated record.
Titled The Ultimate Fighter 27: Battle of the Undefeated, the next installment of TUF will be looking for male fighters with an undefeated record with a minimum of 3-0 to apply for the show. The casting call asks for featherweights and welterweights but in the early stages of tryouts, a weight class will be decided later in the process.
Fighters must be aged between 21 – 34 and will grapple and light spar in front of UFC matchmakers and must be prepared to stay in Vegas until December 16th.
It is unknown what the future of TUF will be after the TV deal with FOX ends next year but the show has been a success for the company and many fighters to emerge from The Ultimate Fighter have become champion including current interim Lightweight champion Tony Ferguson, Bantamweight champion TJ Dillashaw and Strawweight champion Rose Namajunas coming from past seasons of the show.
This will be the third time in a row that a gimmick will be added to the show that has been on the decline in the ratings in recent years but yet to use only undefeated fighters. An undefeated streak can be one of the most prestigious records to keep in mixed martial arts with the wins and losses being so vital in a fighters career.
Who will keep their zero? Who will be the next Ultimate Fighter? Who will be the coaches?
These questions will be answered when the new season of TUF begins shooting in January and the show premiering later in the year.
Tom Gallicchio on UFC Release “It’s Been a Dream of Mine to Fight in KSW”
MMA Latest spoke to TUF 22 and 25 season competitor Tom Gallicchio about being cut from the UFC, and potential promotions that he could sign for in the future.
Gallicchio (19-10) signed for the UFC after reaching the semi-finals of The Ultimate Fighter: Season 25. Losing to James Krause in his debut, “Da Tank” was informed earlier this month that the UFC had parted ways with him.
Q: Before we jump into the whole free agency stuff, talk me through how the UFC broke the news that they were going to release you?
I thought I was going to have another fight, this time at lightweight. I got a letter dated July 7th, saying they were going to keep me, I received it in September. I was getting emails to update my USADA, I never got a cut letter and I got tested by USADA on October 24th. I was hoping to fight sometime in January or February, then they broke the news to me that they need to make a room for new talent.
Q: You made your UFC debut against James Krause in July, then 4 months down the line, they cut you. How surprised were you at this somewhat out of the blue decision?
I’m thankful for my opportunity in the UFC and the fact that they gave me another shot, but it was definitely surprising how it happened. They released a newsletter in September welcoming Jesse (Taylor) Dhiego (Lima) and myself into the UFC, all signs pointed towards another fight. Hearing that I was cut was just heartbreaking.
Q: Have any talks started with a new promotion. I saw you name a few on Twitter, the likes of Bellator, BAMMA, KSW and ACB. Who do you see yourself signing for?
I would love to compete in any of those! A couple of them hit me up, one of which I am very happy to talk with. Since they came out, It’s been a dream of mine to fight in KSW. They’re taking care of their fighters, I would love to fight for them. I want to travel, I want to see the world, I want to fight. I’ve got a lot of fans overseas and I want to give them a show.
It’s been a dream of mine to fight in KSW.
— Tom Gallicchio (@TomGallicchio) November 15, 2017
Q: Your long time friend Jesse Taylor was victorious in the TUF 25 Finale, but he has since accepted a 1-year ban for failing a USADA test. What is your take on this given how close you two are?
I know Jesse is not a juicer, I’ve known him ever since I came down to (Team) Quest. It’s probably come from some supplement that he’s taking, it sucks for him. I think he went into a little bit of panic mode, he could have done a better job of handling it.
— Tom Gallicchio (@TomGallicchio) November 16, 2017
I don’t take supplements, if there was a way, I’d still keep myself in the USADA pool just because I believe in a clean sport. I think it’s important we keep the sport clean and if we’re cleaning up the supplement companies then good, because no one else is.
Where would you look to see Tom fight next? Let us know below!
Darren Till vs Stephen Thompson set for February 24th in England
Wow! Nobody could have expected this news this morning. Dana White has stated he is moving the UFC Fight Night card in Orlando, Florida to the UK so rising star Darren Till (16-0-1) can face Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson (14-2-1) in his backyard.
According to Lance Pugmire of the LA Times, Dana White revealed the news during a Q&A in Santa Monica, California.
Dana White says he’s moving his UFC card from Orlando, moving it to England so popular Darren Till can fight @WonderboyMMA
— Lance Pugmire (@latimespugmire) November 8, 2017
Logistically this fight has its problems. White didn’t state that the fight was scheduled to take place in Liverpool, I assume that is plan A for the UFC though. However, on the 24th the Echo Arena in Liverpool is booked by the UK MMA promotion, Cage Warriors.
Although White may be able to throw some money at the promotion, it is unlikely they’ll budge. Another possibility is to co-promote an event with Cage Warriors, but that’s even more unlikely, even though the concept is a great one.
The fight would not make sense in another UK city like Glasgow, Birmingham or Newcastle. Making the fight is strange if it’s unable to be in Liverpool, or at the top of the UFC London card.
The event would be three weeks before UFC London, which is unheard of for events over in Europe. Normally England would be lucky to get two events in a year, let alone a month. Which makes you think it will either be one or the other. European cards are never typically stacked and having two in the space of three weeks in one country would eat into the quality on show in each card.
Could this be another case of Dana White talking too soon, or are we set for two mega UFC fights in the space of three weeks in the UK. We’ll find out soon enough.
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