A group led by WME/IMG is nearing a deal to buy UFC for $4.2 billion, according to a report in FloCombat, which covers mixed martial arts.
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.