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 222 Re-Worked with Cris Cyborg vs. Yana Kunitskaya, and Frankie Edgar vs. Brian Ortega
UFC 222 has been saved, and it didn’t take a superhero to lift the burning boulder which was Max Holloway’s injury and withdrawal. All it took was a female named Cyborg and a man with a demeanor so smooth, he could be mistaken for an alter-ego. Cris Cyborg now serves as the UFC 222 main event when she defends her featherweight belt against Yana Kunitskaya. Frankie Edgar bumped down to the co-main event to face Brian Ortega in what is likely a title eliminator. The news of the UFC 222 revival originally stemmed from a report by MMAFighting.com and confirmed later in the evening by the UFC.
— UFC (@ufc) February 8, 2018
Over the course of the week, reports surrounded the Las Vegas card and whether it would survive. Multiple options were reportedly being mulled over; cancelling the card outright, changing the pay-per-view (PPV) to a ‘Fight Night’ with an Edgar vs. Ortega main event, Dillashaw vs. Garbrandt 2 main event, among others. Ultimately, the promotion landed on Cyborg vs. Kunitskaya as the new main event, while also booking Brian Ortega.
This adjustment of the card places their women’s Featherweight champion in the second PPV main event in three months. Cris Cyborg recently put her undisputed Featherweight title on the line against Holly Holm at the year ending card, UFC 219. She successfully defended her belt by unanimous decision, in what was an amazing technical display from the Brazilian. In her octagon career, Cyborg is undefeated in her four appearances with three KO/TKO stoppages.
The second half of the new main event, Yana Kunitskaya, makes her UFC debut against the scariest women on the roster. If the 145 lb. champion was not enough of a challenge, Kunitskaya also makes her first appearance in the division since defeating Cindy Dandois in December of 2010. Of Russia descent, her most recent performances came inside the Invicta FC cage. At the female-only promotion, she posted a record of 1-1, with 1 No Contest. Her loss and no contest, both came at the hands of former UFC Featherweight title challenger, Tonya Evinger.
Turning to the co-main event, both fighters have been relatively inactive but, for good reason. Brian Ortega amazingly forced perennial men’s Featherweight contender, Cub Swanson, to tap in the second round of their ‘Fight Night: Fresno’ contest. Ortega fought twice in 2017, but more-so stayed inactive following his stoppage victory over Swanson. The Californian contender announced his desire to wait in line for the next title shot following the recent victory.
For Frankie Edgar, his last fight took place at UFC 211 when he absolutely demolished young and rising star, Yair Rodriguez. A card which took place last May. While Ortega holds an undefeated record, Edgar is undefeated in his previous 9 fights, excluding people named Jose Aldo.
UFC 222 takes place at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada on March 3rd.
UFC Middleweight Champion, Robert Whittaker Announces Birth of Third Child
Times seem dull and dreary for the UFC’s Middleweight Champion, Robert Whittaker. The New Zealand born fighter withdrew from the promotions event debut in the eastern region of his residence, Australia. UFC 221, which takes place this Saturday, booked Whittaker to defend his title for the first time against former division champion, Luke Rockhold. His withdrawal was due to mistreatment of a serious staph infection inside of the Australians stomach.
It couldn’t get much worse, having to disappoint fans, and missing the first UFC event in eastern Australia. As it turns out, it could not get worse for Whittaker. Life only got better, as he had the pleasure of announcing the birth of his third child.
His new child is the champions third and first girl. Information regarding his child is limited as this moment is a tender and special time for the Whittaker family.
UFC 221 takes place in Perth, Australia at Perth Arena on February 11th. The cards main event features Whittakers short notice replacement, Yoel Romero taking on Luke Rockhold. Much to the satiety of fans, an interim belt is not in the equation in this instance.
Thank God. Excuse me, thank Dana White.
UFC 221 also features the ‘Super Samoan’ Mark Hunt vs. Curtis Blaydes, Tai Tuivasa faces Cyril Asker, Alexander Volkanovski vs. Jeremy Kennedy and more.
Dhiego Lima vs. Yushin Okami added to Glendale, Arizona card
Fights, fights, fights, the world-wide leader in MMA added another fan-friendly bout to the already exciting ‘Fight Night: Glendale’ card. Two time ‘Ultimate Fighter’ finalist, Dhiego Lima takes on veteran Yushin Okami. Lima took to Instagram earlier today to announce the news.
Glendale Arizona April 14th Very excited to announce one of the biggest fight in my career taking on a legend yushin okami I never back down from a challenge, I am making a title run this next go in the @ufc. God has been working amazing things in my life and I’m very excited for the future #phil413. @triadmechanical @fathletic.apparel @bluecovemassage
Four days after adding an important Heavyweight clash to UFC Glendale, the promotion booked another crucial bout, in the Welterweight division. While, neither fighter ranks inside the top 15 of the Welterweight division, both sit at pivotal points in their career. In the case of Lima, he comes off a second appearance on the reality series, The Ultimate Fighter. Much like his first appearance, the Welterweight made the competition finals.
Lima first appeared on the reality series during Season 19: Team Edgar vs. Team Penn. In the preliminary round, he defeated Adam Stroup via unanimous decision (2 rounds), to earn a place in the house. From there, he submitted both his quarter-final and semi-final opponents. Lima left the Ultimate Fighter house undefeated, down the line, he did a similar thing on the 25th season of the show. He defeated Hayder Hassan, Gilbert Smith, and Tom Gallicchio, all by unanimous decision leaving the house undefeated for a second time.
Unfortunately, the inverse of his performances in the ‘TUF’ house came to fruition in the finals. In two Ultimate Fighter Finale’s, his record fell to 0-2, following Ultimate Fighter Finale Season 25. What happened to be even more unfortunate, Lima’s opponent at, The Ultimate Fighter Finale Season 25, Jesse Taylor, tested positive for the anti-estrogen agent clomiphene. The sample collected for the failed drug test was in an out-of-competition setting, therefor Lima’s loss to Taylor stands. The loss puts his record with the UFC at, 1-4.
A loss shouldn’t place Lima near the chopping block but, a win would greatly improve his standing with the promotion. The other half of the newly announced bout, is in a similar position.
Yushin Okami made his first appearance for the promotion at UFC 62. Okami earned the victory in his debut. The win marked his third consecutive win in the midst of a six fight win-streak. Over the course of those six victories, Okami defeated Alan Belcher (UFC 62), Kalib Starnes (UFC 64), Rory Singer (UFC 66), and Mike Swick (UFC 69). The Japanese born mixed martial artist remained on the roster for seven more years before being cut following a first round TKO loss to Ronaldo ‘Jacare’ Souza.
Okami fought for various organizations following his release, while also dropping down to Welterweight. When, in the latter part of 2017, he was called upon as a short-notice injury replacement by the UFC. Seven days before UFC Fight Night 117: St. Preux vs. Rua, one half of the main event, Maurico Rua, withdrew due to an apparent knee injury. Okami answered the call, giving him seven days to prepare for rising Light Heavyweight contender, Ovince St. Preux. The Japanese native lost the contest by submission in the opening round.
UFC Fight Night Glendale takes place in Glendale Arizona at the Gila River Arena on April 14th. The main event features Justin Gaethje vs. Dustin Poirer.
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