WME/IMG has been rumored to be a bidder for the ultimate fighting league since May, when ESPN reported the agency was among several potential buyers. At the time, Ultimate Fighting Championship President Dana White emphatically denied the report.
“UFC is not for sale,” White told the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Zuffa, founded by casino executives Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta, bought UFC for just $2 million in 2001. The league has grown so successful in the mixed martial arts world that is is now facing a class-action suit accusing it of being an illegal monopoly. According to FloCombat, Zuffa has accepted an offer from a group that includes WME/IMG, Dalian Wanda Group, the Kraft Group and Tencent Holdings. Most of the money will come from the Chinese partners, Tencent and Wanda, while WME/IMG and the Kraft Group will act as the public face of the ownership in North America, FloCombat reported.
WME/IMG has shown growing interest in live events. Last year, the agency bought Professional Bull Riders for a reported $100 million.
Earlier this month, WME/IMG announced a partnership with Tencent to expand its sports and entertainment business in China.
A rep from WME/IMG declined to comment.
Update: UFC denies the FloCombat report.
“FloCombat’s report indicating that the UFC has been sold is false,” spokesman Dave Sholler said in an email. “We’ve communicated that to our staff members via an internal memo.”
To clarify: FloCombat did not claim that the sale was complete, only that “it is a strong likelihood that the sale will be completed shortly.”
The memo, posted on MMAJunkie.com, includes threats of legal action against anybody who publishes or contributes to “these false stories”:
A report today by FloCombat.com indicating that the company has been sold is false. This follows other false speculation in the press recently.
Such misrepresentation of facts in the media negatively impacts our business, staff members and athletes. We have instructed our attorneys to investigate and take all appropriate legal actions against the parties publishing and contributing to these false stories.
With International Fight Week and the historic UFC 200 rapidly approaching, we look forward to once again delivering a series of events that our fans won’t soon forget. We appreciate your hard work, diligence and commitment, and thank you for your focus as we continue to take the sport to new heights.
Sounds like the gloves are coming off…