Back in 2016 the Fertitta brothers shook up the MMA world with the news that they had sold the Ultimate Fighting Championship for a whopping $4.3 billion. The buyers represented several investment oriented companies, with the majority stake going to the the William Morris Endeavor Entertainment (also known simply as Endeavor or WME-IMG) talent agency. Two other investment groups, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR) and Silver Lake each took on a 22.9% share in the promotion.
As Endeavor attempts to hit the stock market with their second attempted IPO, however, it appears that a major part of their plan to make a successful launch this time around includes full ownership of the UFC. To that end, Sportico reports that Endeavor has reached an agreement to buy out their co-owners of the world’s largest MMA promotion.
Their first IPO attempt – back in 2019 – was a noted failure, with the talent agency struggling with a writers strike at the time as well as well as what the company cited as challenging “market conditions.” The agency has since come to an agreement with the Writers Guild of America, and now appears positioned to finally take their organization public.
At the time of their failed 2019 IPO, minority shareholders had the opportunity to spin off the UFC into it’s own IPO after Endeavor went public—something that will no longer be in play with this latest transfer of ownership.
Sportico notes that Endeavor recently held a ‘private placement’, selling shares in the company to a pre-selected investor group, raising $1.768 billion in the process. The bulk of that money, ($1.75 billion of it) will apparently go to buying up complete control of the UFC. That deal was reportedly finalized with the promotion back on February 16th, but has just come to light with the agencies latest SEC filing ahead of their planned IPO.
Alongside acquiring full control of the promotion, WME-IMG has also announced that Tesla mogul Elon Musk will be joining the company’s board of directors. An internal reorganization of the company will apparently leave Endeavor CEO Ari Emanuel and Silver Lake CEO Patrick Whitesell with more than 50% of the company’s voting power. What, if any, impact this move has on the UFC’s operations going forward remains to be seen.