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On Tuesday, ESPN’s Darren Rovell stunned the fight world with a report that the UFC was in “advanced talks” to sell the business with a valuation of $3.5-4.0 billion.
That would be quite a haul for the owners of UFC, who purchased the company for $2 million in 2001. However, UFC is strongly denying the report and instead has hinted that there are actually talks to expand the fighting empire into China, which may include Chinese investors as opposed to an outright sale of the company.
On Wednesday, UFC president Dana White, who is also a minority owner of UFC, shot down that report in his typical emphatic fashion, telling “The Dan Patrick Show” the company is not for sale and that he has no desire to get out of the business.
“We’re not up for sale,” White told Dan Patrick. “I’ll tell you this. The day we decide to sell I probably don’t want to do this anymore. I love this. I love this business. I love the sport. I jump out of bed everyday excited to go to work … We’re always working on deals and on our expansion globally. Since I have been saying since this thing came out, no, we’re not for sale.”
However, when White was asked if a portion of UFC could be sold to outside investors, he was suddenly less emphatic.
“If I am in the middle of a deal right now, there’s a lot of confidentiality involved in it,” White said. “But, um, we’re working on expanding. We’re working on growing the company and moving in to other territories like China and Japan and Korea.”
Prior to the interview, Rovell took to Twitter to defend his report, noting that ESPN had five independent sources. Those sources confirmed to Rovell that Goldman Sachs had provided UFC’s financials to at least four bidders, including two in China. One of those was a company tied to Wang Jianlin, the richest man in China who is said to be worth $35 billion.
The clear indication here is that UFC is looking to expand into Asia and is looking at outside investors to help make that happen. Whether that is a move by UFC directly or the formation of a sister company in Asia, it is not clear. But it would seem that part of the move would involve selling a portion of UFC, but not all of it, and the current operating structure of UFC would not change.
In other words, Dana White and the majority owners, Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta, are not going anywhere anytime soon.