The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) has grown from a niche combat sports event to a global phenomenon, but have you ever wondered, who owns the UFC? In this blog post, we’ll dive deep into the history and current ownership of this powerhouse of mixed martial arts entertainment, exploring the key players and financial milestones that have shaped its remarkable journey.
The UFC was founded by Art Davie and Rorion Gracie in 1993, with ownership changing over the years culminating in Endeavor Group Holdings having majority stake today.
Dana White’s leadership has been instrumental to transforming and expanding the UFC into a global phenomenon, with revenues increasing from $690 million to over $1 billion between 2016-2022.
The future of UFC looks promising as Endeavor explores full ownership through buyout or IPO for more resources & improved decision making processes.
The Roots of UFC Ownership: From Founders to Present Day
The story of the UFC began in 1993 when Art Davie, Bob Meyrowitz, and Rorion Gracie founded the organization to showcase Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and determine the best fighting style through an eight-man tournament format. This marked the beginning of UFC history. The first UFC event, held at the McNichols Sports Arena in Denver, Colorado, featured:
Captivating its audience
Garnering around 80,000 pay-per-view buys
Since then, UFC events have continued to evolve and captivate fans worldwide.
This humble beginning laid the foundation for what would become the ultimate fighting championship we know today, with legends like Tito Ortiz shaping its history.
From its inception, the UFC has experienced several changes in ownership. The ownership history of the UFC is as follows:
In 2001, the Fertitta brothers, Frank and Lorenzo, along with their childhood friend Dana White, acquired the UFC, transforming the organization and ushering in a new era of growth and mainstream appeal.
Today, the majority ownership of the UFC rests with Endeavor Group Holdings, a leading entertainment and sports agency.
Minority shareholders of the UFC include Silver Lake Partners, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, and MSD Capital.
The Birth of the UFC: Art Davie and Rorion Gracie
Art Davie, an advertising executive, and Rorion Gracie, a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu master, founded the UFC with the goal of demonstrating the effectiveness of their martial art in a no-holds-barred competition. They partnered with Bob Meyrowitz, who owned Semaphore Entertainment Group, to produce and broadcast the first UFC event on pay-per-view. The event featured ufc fighters from various martial arts disciplines, including sumo wrestling, boxing, and kickboxing, competing in an eight-sided cage known as the Octagon. This was one of the earliest fight events that showcased a diverse range of combat styles.
The first UFC event was a resounding success, with fans captivated by the intensity and rawness of the fights. It proved that there was a market for mixed martial arts and set the stage for the growth of the UFC as a leading combat sports organization. In the years that followed, the UFC would evolve and expand, eventually becoming a global phenomenon and the premier mixed martial arts organization in the world.
The Zuffa Takeover: Fertitta Brothers and Dana White
The UFC’s fortunes changed drastically in 2001 when the Fertitta brothers, Frank and Lorenzo, along with Dana White, purchased the organization for $2 million. The Fertitta brothers were successful entrepreneurs with a background in the casino industry, while Dana White had experience managing gyms and a passion for martial arts. Together, they transformed the UFC by implementing weight classes, stricter regulations, and securing sanctioning from athletic commissions.
One of the most significant moves made by the new ownership was the creation of “The Ultimate Fighter,” a reality television show that gave fans an inside look at the lives of MMA fighters and helped the UFC connect with a broader audience. This show, along with strategic partnerships and the charisma of Dana White as the face of the organization, helped the UFC achieve immense success, paving the way for its eventual acquisition by Endeavor Group Holdings in 2016.
The Endeavor Acquisition: A New Age of Ownership
In 2016, Endeavor Group Holdings (formerly known as WME-IMG) acquired the UFC for a staggering $4.025 billion, marking a new era of ownership and growth for the organization. Endeavor’s vision for the UFC included broadening its media exposure and expanding its reach around the world. As a leading entertainment and sports agency, Endeavor brought valuable resources and connections to the table, further elevating the UFC’s status in the world of combat sports.
Under Endeavor’s ownership, the UFC has continued to expand, including:
Signing a significant broadcasting deal with ESPN
Entering new markets
Embracing the digital media boom and leveraging platforms such as UFC Fight Pass to better connect with fans around the world.
However, the organization has faced criticism over fighter pay and its handling of the pandemic, highlighting the challenges that lie ahead as the UFC continues to grow and evolve.
Current Majority and Minority Stakeholders in the UFC
Endeavor Group Holdings currently owns a 50.1% stake in the UFC, making it the majority owner of the organization. As an influential player in the entertainment and sports industry, Endeavor has played a significant role in the UFC’s growth, both in terms of its global reach and financial success. Their acquisition of the UFC in 2016 marked a turning point for the organization, as they leveraged their resources and connections to elevate the UFC’s status in the world of combat sports.
In addition to Endeavor, the UFC’s ownership structure includes minority shareholders Silver Lake Partners, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, and MSD Capital, who collectively own 49.9% of the company. These minority stakeholders provide financial support and strategic guidance to the UFC, helping to fund projects and initiatives aimed at further expanding its global reach and increasing its appeal among mainstream sports fans.
Endeavor: Leading the Charge
Endeavor, a leading entertainment and sports agency, has played a significant role in the UFC’s growth and development since acquiring its majority stake. With a diverse portfolio that includes representation of high-profile sports organizations such as the NFL and NHL, Endeavor has the resources and connections necessary to elevate the UFC to new heights.
Under Endeavor’s ownership, the UFC has experienced a period of rapid growth, with revenues jumping 35% from $690 million in 2016 to $930 million in 2021. Endeavor’s influence has also been evident in the UFC’s partnerships and media deals, such as the broadcasting agreement with ESPN, which has helped to further expand the organization’s reach and solidify its position as a dominant force in combat sports entertainment.
The Minority Shareholders: Silver Lake Partners, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, and MSD Capital
While Endeavor holds the majority stake in the UFC, the organization’s ownership structure is rounded out by minority shareholders Silver Lake Partners, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, and MSD Capital. Together, these investment firms own 49.9% of the UFC, providing crucial financial support and strategic guidance to the organization.
The involvement of these minority shareholders has helped the UFC fund projects and initiatives aimed at expanding its global reach and increasing its appeal among mainstream sports fans. With the backing of these influential investment firms, the UFC is well-positioned to continue its impressive growth trajectory and further solidify its status as the premier mixed martial arts organization in the world.
Dana White’s Impact on the UFC
Dana White, the charismatic president of the UFC, has been a driving force behind the organization’s success, both as a minority owner and in his leadership role. With an extensive background in martial arts and experience managing gyms, White’s passion and determination have been instrumental in the UFC’s transformation and expansion.
Throughout his tenure, he has proven to be a great leader. White has played a key role in securing agreements with networks and sponsors, as well as launching initiatives such as “The Ultimate Fighter” reality show to boost fan engagement and athlete exposure. Despite his minority stake, he made it. White’s influence over the UFC remains strong, with his vision and leadership continuing to shape the organization’s direction and growth.
Dana White’s Journey to UFC Presidency
Dana White’s journey to becoming the UFC president began when he convinced the Fertitta brothers to purchase the struggling organization in 2001. As the face of the UFC, White has played a key role in transforming the organization from a niche combat sports event to a global phenomenon. His charisma and passion for the sport have made him a recognizable figure in the world of MMA, and his strategic planning and negotiation skills have been crucial in the UFC’s growth and development.
Under White’s leadership, the UFC has experienced immense success, with the organization’s value skyrocketing during his tenure. The introduction of weight classes, stricter regulations, and sanctioning from athletic commissions have all helped elevate the UFC to its current status as the premier mixed martial arts organization in the world.
The Ongoing Influence of Dana White
Although Dana White is not the majority owner of the UFC, his influence on the organization remains significant. As president, White continues to be involved in the day-to-day operations of the UFC, overseeing its promotion and overall direction. His ongoing involvement ensures that the UFC remains true to its roots as a combat sports organization, while also adapting to the changing landscape of the sports entertainment industry.
White’s impact on the UFC extends beyond his role as president, as he remains an influential figure in the world of mixed martial arts. His passion for the sport, along with his vision and strategic planning abilities, have played a critical role in the UFC’s continued growth and success. As the organization looks to the future, White’s influence will undoubtedly remain a driving force in its ongoing evolution and expansion.
The Financial Evolution of the UFC
The UFC has experienced tremendous financial growth since its inception, with its valuation and revenue streams reaching new heights under the leadership of Zuffa and Endeavor. From revenues of $690 million in 2016 to over $1 billion in the first quarter of 2022, the UFC has demonstrated its ability to adapt and thrive in the ever-changing landscape of sports entertainment.
This impressive financial growth can be attributed to a combination of factors, including the strategic vision of its owners, the popularity of its fighters, and the organization’s ability to secure lucrative media deals and partnerships. With a diverse range of revenue streams, including pay-per-view events, television rights, sponsorships, merchandise, and ticket sales, the UFC has solidified its position as a dominant force in combat sports entertainment.
Rapid Growth Under Zuffa and Endeavor
The UFC’s value skyrocketed under the ownership of the Fertitta brothers and Dana White, who implemented key changes to improve the organization’s image and expand its reach. Under their leadership, the UFC introduced:
Secured sanctioning from athletic commissions
Launched initiatives such as “The Ultimate Fighter” reality show to boost fan engagement and athlete exposure
These strategic moves, coupled with their passion for the sport, laid the groundwork for the organization’s continued growth and success.
Following Endeavor’s acquisition of the UFC in 2016, the organization has continued to experience rapid growth. Some key highlights include:
Revenues increasing by 35% from 2016 to 2021
Endeavor’s influence in the entertainment and sports industry helping to further elevate the UFC’s status in the world of combat sports
The organization signing a significant broadcasting deal with ESPN
Entering new markets as part of its ongoing expansion
Current Valuation and Revenue Streams
The UFC’s current valuation is estimated to be around $7 billion, with its diverse revenue streams contributing to its impressive financial growth. These revenue streams include pay-per-view events, partnerships with ESPN, and other sponsorships, all of which have helped to solidify the organization’s position as a dominant force in combat sports entertainment.
As the UFC continues to expand its reach and grow its fan base, its revenue streams will undoubtedly continue to evolve. With the backing of powerful majority and minority shareholders, as well as the ongoing influence of Dana White, the organization is well-positioned to leverage its financial success and further solidify its status as the premier mixed martial arts organization in the world.
Future Prospects for UFC Ownership
The future of UFC ownership may see Endeavor seeking complete ownership of the organization, potentially through a buyout of minority shareholders or an initial public offering (IPO). As the UFC continues to grow and expand, it will undoubtedly face challenges and opportunities related to its ownership structure and the interests of its various stakeholders.
While the organization’s current ownership arrangement has provided it with financial support and strategic guidance, Endeavor’s pursuit of complete ownership could potentially streamline decision-making and provide the UFC with additional resources for growth and expansion.
As the MMA organization navigates the complexities of its ownership structure, the UFC’s future prospects remain promising, with opportunities for continued growth and success on the horizon.
Endeavor’s Plans for Complete Ownership
Endeavor’s aim to eventually own 100% of the UFC could potentially be achieved through a buyout of minority shareholders or an IPO. While the organization is not currently a publicly traded company on its own, an IPO could represent a significant milestone in its financial evolution and provide an opportunity for Endeavor to consolidate its ownership position.
The pursuit of complete ownership could potentially provide the UFC with additional resources and streamline decision-making processes, further solidifying its status as the premier mixed martial arts organization in the world. As Endeavor continues to pursue its ownership ambitions, the future prospects for the UFC remain promising, with opportunities for growth and expansion on the horizon.
Expansion, Growth, and Challenges
The UFC’s future includes plans for global expansion, technological advancements, and addressing ongoing controversies and challenges within the sport. As the organization continues to grow its fan base and expand its reach, it will undoubtedly face obstacles related to its ownership structure, the interests of its various stakeholders, and the evolving landscape of combat sports entertainment.
Despite these challenges, the UFC’s future prospects remain promising, with opportunities for continued growth and success on the horizon. As the organization navigates the complexities of its ownership structure and the interests of its various stakeholders, it will continue to evolve and adapt, solidifying its position as the premier mixed martial arts organization in the world.
From its humble beginnings as a showcase for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu to its current status as a global phenomenon, the UFC has experienced remarkable growth and transformation under the leadership of various owners. With Endeavor at the helm and the ongoing influence of Dana White, the organization’s future prospects remain promising, as it continues to expand its reach and face the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. As fans of mixed martial arts, we eagerly await the next chapter in the UFC’s incredible journey.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does Dana White own the UFC?
No, Dana. White does not own UFC. It is actually owned by the Fertitta brothers who purchased it for $2 million in 2001. They are also casino tycoons.
So, no matter what anyone says, Dana White cannot be called the owner of UFC.
Is Joe Rogan the owner of the UFC?
No, Joe Rogan does not own UFC. He has been a commentator for the fight promotion since 1997, but he isn’t an owner or shareholder. He is simply part of the larger UFC family as a popular figure and loyal friend.
How much is the UFC worth?
UFC is worth an estimated $12.3 billion, making it the most valuable sports league in the world. Endeavor Group Holdings, Inc. (formerly known as William Morris Endeavor and WME-IMG) is an American holding company for talent and media agencies with its primary offices in Beverly Hills, California, United States. CEO Ari Emanuel announced that the company had valued the UFC at more than $4 billion more than Forbes estimates the value of the Dallas Cowboys.
This places the UFC at the top of the list when it comes to the most valuable sports leagues.
Who were the original founders of the UFC?
The original founders of the UFC are a trio you may not have heard of – Art Davie, Bob Meyrowitz, and Rorion Gracie. Together, they founded the UFC back in 1993.
Who currently owns the majority stake in the UFC?
You may be surprised to learn that Endeavor Group Holdings owns a majority stake in the UFC, with a 50.1% ownership.