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From $2mn in 2001 to record deal: UFC confirms $4bn sale

From $2mn in 2001 to record deal: UFC confirms $4bn sale
The UFC has announced it has been sold for approximately $4 billion to a group headed by talent agency William Morris Endeavor/International Management Group (WME/IMG).

Las Vegas CBS affiliate KLAS-TV reported over the weekend that paperwork for the sale was signed on Saturday to an ownership group comprising WME/IMG, private equity group MSD and global investment firm KKR.

UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta will step down following a transitional period, although Dana White will stay on as president and hold a minority stake.

Fertitta and his brother Frank will also remain as minority owners.

The Abu Dhabi-based Flash Entertainment, which purchased 10 percent of the UFC in 2010, will retain its share for now.

Rumors of a sale initially emerged in May, but these were quickly dismissed by White. Those rumors have now proven to be true with the sale expected to be formally completed before UFC 202 on August 20.

"I'm obviously bummed about not being in business with my best friend [Lorenzo Fertitta] and my partners of 20 years,” White said.

"I am happy about the future of the UFC, the sport and my role moving forward."

The $4 billion price tag is the largest franchise sale in sports history and gives the Fertitta brothers a massive return on their original purchase price of just $2 million back in 2001.

The promotion initially struggled and by 2004 it was more than $40 million in debt, but after funding the entire cost of the first season of the reality series ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ the company took off.

The UFC is coming off its biggest week of the year – International Fight Week in Las Vegas - which saw events take place on three consecutive nights, climaxing with the historic UFC 200 at the new T-Mobile Arena in the city.

With fighters like Conor McGregor, Ronda Rousey and Brock Lesnar now firmly established as household names, the UFC's sale looks set to see the company accelerate its quest to see MMA be recognized as the number one combat sport in the world.