William Morris Endeavor and International Management Group (WME-IMG) bought the UFC from Zuffa in the summer of 2016 for more than $4 billion. While the new ownership group is now simply known as Endeavor, its investment might be more valuable than ever.
According to UFC President Dana White, the recent TV and streaming deal the Las Vegas-based organization signed with ESPN has nearly doubled the company’s worth.
“When you think about it we haven’t even scratched the surface yet of how big this thing can be,” White said in an interview with Tony Robbins. “We just did a TV deal with ESPN for $1.5 billion for five years. Now the company is worth $7 billion.”
Earlier this year, ESPN acquired streaming and television rights to the UFC for $300 million per year. Beginning in 2019, 30 UFC events will air on various ESPN platforms. That includes 10 main cards on various ESPN networks as well as 20 on the recently launched streaming service ESPN+. The network will also show preliminary bouts for the UFC’s pay-per-view cards.
“Obviously this ESPN deal is going to be massive for us, expose us to millions of people just here in the U.S. that haven’t been exposed to the UFC,” White said. “We’re going to continue to go into markets we haven’t been, we’re going to continue to find the best talent in the world. I love to find up-and-coming talent. I love to find the next guy or girl. Continue to build the sport. That’s it. That’s my focus. It’s not rocket science, it’s nothing crazy. Just continue to do what we do and get bigger and bigger.”
2017 was also a productive financial year for the company, perhaps even record breaking. According to Moody’s Investor’s Service, the UFC generated “well over $700 million” in revenues last year. White called it the most lucrative year in UFC history, despite declining pay-per-view buys and television ratings across the board.
It’s unclear if White’s $7 billion claim is accurate, but the coming months could be productive as well. Conor McGregor, the promotion’s biggest star, is set to return to the Octagon at UFC 229 on Oct. 6, and Brock Lesnar, another big draw, will likely challenge Daniel Cormier for the heavyweight crown in early 2019.