The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is the premier organization in the world of mixed martial arts (MMA). The company has grown exponentially since its inception in 1993, and with that growth has come significant changes in its ownership.
In this article, MMA Predictions explores the history of UFC ownership, its current ownership structure, and the key individuals behind the organization’s success.
Early Days – Semaphore Entertainment Group (SEG)
The UFC was founded in 1993 by Art Davie and Rorion Gracie. The promotion was initially owned by Semaphore Entertainment Group (SEG), a pay-per-view company, with Bob Meyrowitz serving as its president.
SEG organized and marketed the first UFC events, but faced financial troubles in the late 1990s, which led to a search for new investors.
Zuffa LLC Takes Over
In 2001, SEG sold the UFC to Zuffa LLC, a company founded by brothers Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta, and their childhood friend Dana White.
The Fertitta brothers, who had a background in the casino business, saw potential in the struggling organization and invested significantly in its growth. Dana White was named the president of the UFC, a position he still holds today.
The Fertitta Era
Under Zuffa’s ownership, the UFC experienced significant growth and mainstream popularity. The company implemented new rules and weight classes, increased fighter safety, and expanded globally.
The UFC’s success was further boosted by its partnership with Spike TV in 2005, which aired The Ultimate Fighter reality show, exposing the sport to a wider audience.
WME-IMG and the $4 Billion Deal
In July 2016, WME-IMG, now known as Endeavor, acquired the UFC for a staggering $4 billion. The Fertitta brothers sold their majority stake, retaining a small percentage of ownership, while Dana White remained as the president.
Endeavor, a global entertainment, sports, and talent agency, brought in new resources and expertise to expand the UFC’s reach even further.
The Current Ownership Structure
As of 2021, the UFC is owned by a combination of organizations and individuals:
- Endeavor (parent company) – The majority owner with approximately 50.1% ownership. Led by CEO Ari Emanuel and Executive Chairman Patrick Whitesell.
- Silver Lake Partners – A private equity firm that holds approximately 30% ownership.
- Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR) – A global investment firm with around 18% ownership.
- MSD Capital and MSD Partners – Investment firms managing the assets of Michael Dell and his family, which hold around 1.5% ownership.
- Fertitta brothers and Dana White – Retaining a small ownership stake.
Key Individuals Behind the UFC’s Success
Several individuals have played a significant role in the UFC’s growth and success:
- Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta – The brothers who invested in the UFC during its early days, transforming it into a global sports empire.
- Dana White – The long-standing president of the UFC, responsible for daily operations and the public face of the company.
- Ari Emanuel – CEO of Endeavor, who has helped to grow the UFC’s brand and expand its global reach since the acquisition in 2016.
The UFC has come a long way since its inception in 1993. From its early days under SEG to its current ownership by Endeavor and other stakeholders, the organization has grown into a multi-billion-dollar sports empire.
As the UFC continues to evolve, its ownership structure will undoubtedly play a significant role in shaping its future success.