UFC owners sell and make a 142,700% return on their investment

That's not bad business...

UFC owners sell and make a 142,700% return on their investment

John Locher / AP

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) has been sold to WME-IMG - a US talent agency which is backed by private equity firms - for $4bn.

The current owners, casino entrepreneurs Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta bought the then-struggling company for $2m in 2000. ESPN business reporter Darren Rovell has been crunching the numbers, and he's worked out that after inflation the brothers have secured a 142,700% return on their investment.

Nevada CBS affiliate KLAS and The New York Times reported overnight that the terms had been agreed and that the sale would be announced today.

WME has released a statement confirming that it has purchased the company, "We’re now committed to pursuing new opportunities for UFC and its talented athletes to ensure the sport’s continued growth and success on a global scale," the company said.

The company represents UFC super star Ronda Rousey - this experience may have given it an inside track on the sport's future earning potential.

The $4bn price tag is the largest sum ever paid for a sporting organisation. The company grossed $600m in 2015.

The Fertitta brothers will step away from the UFC, while its public face Dana White will remain on. He has a 9% stake in the business, and it is reported that he will continue to hold a stake when the sale is completed.

This Twitter timeline suggests that he's happy with the deal...

Mr White told fans that they should not be worried about the sale, and that it will give the organisation a chance to "go to the next level."

Irish MMA superstar Conor McGregor has also been tweeting about the deal, thanking the Fertitta brothers ahead of his UFC 202 rematch with Nate Diaz.

In 2011 The New York Times labelled the meteoric rise of the company "one of the greatest feats of financial alchemy in the history of sports."

A new TV deal for UFC events in the UK and Ireland is expected to be announced in the coming weeks - the current deal expires at the end of July.

 

The 23 year-old company's events are aired in 156 countries, and the UFC claims that 45% of its viewers are in the difficult-to-reach millennial age bracket.

 

The first ever UFC event took place in November 1993. There were no judges, no weight classes, and the rules didn't go much further than, 'no biting, no eye-gouging.'

The opening fight pitted a 415 pound sumo wrestler against a lean Dutch kick-boxer - who duly caught him with a kick to the face moments into the competition - bursting open the area around his eye and knocking out three teeth.