The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) has moved to deny a takeover deal has been agreed for the mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion, stating it is considering its legal options over the “false stories” surrounding its future.
The FloCombat website yesterday (Monday) said UFC executives had accepted a bid of $4.2bn (€3.72bn) from “a group consisting of WME-IMG, the Dalian Wanda Group, The Kraft Group and Tencent Holdings.”
However, UFC vice-president of public relations Dave Sholler told the MMAjunkie website: “FloCombat.com’s report indicating that the UFC has been sold is false. We’ve communicated that to our staff members tonight via an internal memo.”
The UFC has been at the centre of a wave of takeover speculation in recent weeks. The sustained reports commenced last month when ESPN.com said the MMA organisation’s parent company was in advanced talks to sell the business. ESPN.com, citing multiple sources with knowledge of the talks, said at least four parties had submitted bids for UFC, whose parent company is Zuffa LLC.
Investment bank Goldman Sachs is said to be representing Zuffa LLC, which bought the UFC in 2001 for only $2m. At the time, UFC president Dana White said the story was “overblown” and the facts “could not be further off”. He added: “The UFC is not for sale.”
MMAjunkie said that it had obtained the email sent to all UFC employees yesterday denying the legitimacy of the FloCombat.com report – a memo signed by UFC co-owner and chief executive Lorenzo Fertitta.
“A report today by FloCombat.com indicating that the company has been sold is false,” the email read. “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.”
FloCombat.com’s report stated that as part of the deal, White would remain at the helm of UFC, while Fertitta would depart the promotion after the transaction was complete. Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta, who along with White operate as Zuffa LLC, are believed to each own just over 40 per cent of the company. White is said to have stake of around nine per cent, with Flash Entertainment, a subsidiary of the Abu Dhabi government, owning the remaining 10 per cent.