Group headed by WME/IMG in talks to buy Ultimate Fighting Championship
A group headed by American talent management company WME/IMG is in talks to buy the Ultimate Fighting Championship for as much as $4.2 billion, a person familiar with the matter said.
The companies have been in talks for several weeks, but a deal has not been finalized, said the person, who was not authorized to speak publicly.
A WME/IMG spokesperson declined to comment.
The news comes after May reportsthat at least four bidders, including WME/IMG and Chinese conglomerate Dalian Wanda Group, were looking to purchase the mixed martial arts organization.
UFC representatives have repeatedly denied claims that the organization was for sale.
“FloCombat.com’s report indicating that the UFC has been sold is false,” a UFC spokesperson said, referring to a blog that on Monday reported that a sale to WME/IMG was imminent. “We’ve communicated that to our staff members [yesterday] via an internal memo.”
The talks follow recent controversies surrounding the organization. UFC has faced a number of challenges that have increased pressure on Chief Executive Lorenzo Fertitta, including a rash of controversial doping incidents and absences of popular fighters.
Still, UFC has continued to grow in popularity.
The organization was last purchased by Zuffa in 2001 for $2 million. Since then, UFC’s financial value has significantly increased. If a sale occurs, it would be among the largest in sports history.
According to Jarrod Moses, founder and CEO of United Entertainment Group, UFC’s continued success makes the organization an enticing purchase for groups such as WME/IMG.
“There is tremendous perceived value to the brand if it is marketed correctly,” Moses said. “It has a very strong male following and [fans] are very sticky as far as maintaining their loyalty to the players. Three years from now, UFC will probably go to $6 billion to $8 billion in value.”
The potential UFC sale would be the latest in a series of sports acquisitions by WME. Last year, the group purchased Professional Bull Riders and competitive video game agency Global eSports Management. In 2013, WME purchased international sports company heavyweight IMG for $2.3 billion.
Dalian Wanda Group, which is said to be a major investor in the deal, has similarly expanded into entertainment and sports businesses in recent years. Dalian Wanda Group owns a number of major American companies, including AMC Theatres and Legendary Entertainment, which it acquired this year for about $3.5 billion.
Times staff writers Ryan Faughnder and Lance Pugmire contributed to this report.
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