Jaws hit the floor when a group headed by WME-IMG purchased the UFC for roughly $4.2 billion in July of 2016. It was the largest ever acquisition in sports history.
What might be a little more shocking is UFC president Dana White‘s recent revelation that WME-IMG wasn’t the highest bidder. In fact, White said that the group was actually third in the running when the Feritta Brothers decided to sell the promotion they purchased in January of 2001 for $2 million.
“When we did this deal, there were two groups that came in for more money than (WME-IMG co-CEO Ari Emanuel). There was one for $5 billion,” said White in a recent UFC interview.
Turning a $2 million investment into a $4.2 billion sale certainly allowed the Fertittas to be a little choosey about whom would get the promotion. They surely wanted to make a hefty profit, and they did, but they, along with White, poured a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into building not just a company but a sport over the 15 years between the purchase and the sale.
“One of the millions of things that I respect about the Fertittas, they weren’t just going to let this go for the money,” White continued. “They were gonna make sure that it went to somebody that could come in and take it to the next level.”
White held a minority stake in the company alongside the Fertittas. With a $4.2 billion sale, even holding a small percentage, White didn’t have a financial need to remain a part of the company, but he did.
White signed a five-year agreement with the new ownership to help continue building upon what he and the Fertittas had accomplished. For White, he said that remaining with the company had nothing to do with money, but everything to do with the love of what has become a global enterprise.
“I was never in this for the money… ever. For me, it’s always taking it to the next level.”
Though he wouldn’t reveal details, White indicated that WME-IMG has significant expansion plans for the fight promotion. Although the company has appeared to have struggled under the new ownership, especially after they laid-off a large portion of the staff, White said that he kind of likes the negativity that has surfaced recently.
He still has the belief that the UFC will continue to do bigger and better things.
“I love the negativity again. I love the doubt. I feel like I’m back in the old days where everybody doubts,” he said. “It’s gonna be so much bigger for the sport, obviously for the brand, and for the fighters.”