Ultimate Fight Club: Who’s In Control Of The UFC Empire?

Published on: 24 November 2023 Last Updated on: 26 December 2023
who owns ufc

The world-famous fighting club has been in the news a lot since the UFC and WWE merged. The UFC’s parent company, Endeavor, acquired the bulk of World Wrestling Entertainment’s stock and combined the two organizations to form TKO.

Under TKO Group Holdings, UFC President Dana White and Chairman & CEO of WWE Vince McMahon have assumed new titles. Vince McMahon holds the position of Executive Chairman of the TKO, while White has assumed the role of CEO of MMA promotion. Remarkably, McMahon now has the ability to veto decisions made about the UFC.

But you might want to get into the details of this. The UFC has had a history of different management. To get into the thick of things, let’s ask, who owns UFC?      

Who Owns The UFC?

Who Owns The UFC?
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According to Dana White, the head of the UFC, he still makes all of the decisions. On paper, though, McMahon now has enormous power. Since they own 51% of TKO shares, the parent company of TKO—Enterprise—retains ownership of the UFC. The remaining shares, or roughly 49%, are held by WWE.

But before we get into all those details, let’s get one thing clear. You know how they fight in the ring. Their precise attacks. The rules of the game. But what does UFC stand for? It is an acronym for Ultimate Fighting Championship.

Here are the ownership roles after the merger:

CEO– Ari Emanuel

President & COO– Mark Shapiro

Executive Chairman of the TKO– Vince McMahon

CEO of MMA promotions under TKO– Dana White    

Vince McMahon is ONE of the best promoters in the pro wrestling business, if not THE best. In 1982, McMahon spent $1 million to purchase the WWE. Over the following forty years, he turned the promotion into a billion-dollar business.

Still, when McMahon’s son expressed interest in purchasing the UFC in the early 2000s, he passed up a great chance. Vince, though, turned down his son’s request. Many people thought McMahon held the opinion that you can’t become a star if you can’t control the result. He felt it was not worth the investment because the UFC is one of the riskiest sports.

The UFC was purchased by UFC President Dana White and the Fertitta Brothers for $2 million in 2001. Endeavor purchased the organization in 2016 for a record-breaking $4 billion. The WWE was valued at $9.3 billion at the time of the merger, while the UFC was valued at $12.1 billion.

Early Days- Semaphore Entertainment Group (SEG)

Early Days- Semaphore Entertainment Group (SEG)
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In 1993, Art Davie and Rorion Gracie founded the UFC. Semaphore Entertainment Group (SEG), a pay-per-view company led by Bob Meyrowitz, originally owned the promotion.

The first UFC events were planned and promoted by SEG, but in the late 1990s, the company ran into financial difficulties, which prompted it to look for new investors.

Who Owns UFC: Zuffa LLV Takes Over

Who Owns UFC: Zuffa LLV Takes Over  
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Zuffa LLC, a business started by brothers Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta and their childhood friend Dana White, purchased the UFC from SEG in 2001. Having experience in the casino industry, the Fertitta brothers saw potential in the floundering company and made a substantial investment in its expansion. Dana White was appointed UFC president, a role he still occupies today.

The Fertitta Era

The Fertitta Era
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Zuffa was the owner of the UFC when it saw tremendous expansion and widespread appeal. The company expanded internationally, added fighter safety, and instituted new regulations and weight classes.

The Ultimate Fighter reality show on Spike TV, which debuted in 2005 and introduced the sport to a larger audience, contributed to the UFC’s success.

Who Owns UFC: WME-IMG And The $4 Billion Deal  

Who Owns UFC: WME-IMG And The $4 Billion Deal 
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The UFC was purchased by WME-IMG, presently known as Endeavor, for an astounding $4 billion in July 2016. Dana White was still the president, but the Fertitta brothers sold the bulk of their stock, keeping a tiny portion of the company.

To increase the UFC’s reach even further, Endeavor, a global agency for sports, entertainment, and talent, brought in additional resources and knowledge.

Key People Behind UFC’s Success  

Key People Behind UFC’s Success 
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Numerous people have contributed significantly to the expansion and prosperity of the UFC:

The brothers Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta made early investments in the UFC, which helped it grow into a multibillion-dollar global sports empire.

Dana White, the long-serving president of the UFC, is in charge of day-to-day management and serving as the organization’s public face.

Since the UFC was acquired in 2016, Ari Emanuel, CEO of Endeavor, has contributed to the growth of the organization’s brand and global reach.

Since its founding in 1993, the UFC has advanced significantly. From its early years under SEG to Endeavor and other stakeholders’ ownership today, the organization has expanded into a multibillion-dollar sports franchise.

Undoubtedly, the ownership structure of the UFC will have a big impact on how successful it is in the future as it continues to change.

What Can The UFC Learn From WWE?  

What Can The UFC Learn From WWE? 
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Though it is difficult to see the merger having much of an impact on the UFC business, there are undoubtedly some aspects of WWE’s infrastructure that the MMA promotion can take advantage of, most notably event production.

Although the UFC provides an excellent live-event experience in terms of lighting, music, and atmosphere, nothing in sports or entertainment quite compares to WrestleMania’s bells and whistles.

WWE once again exceeded expectations at WrestleMania in Los Angeles earlier this year with an amazing gold set that covered the whole stadium and a huge ramp that led to the ring. A number of the wrestlers on the card had special entrances, and their images rotated on the gold entrance ramp.

Cody Rhodes was accompanied by a breathtaking fireworks display as he descended to the ramp via the below-stage lift. From the rafters, Logan Paul headed toward the entrance ramp. Then there was Roman Reigns, the biggest star in the WWE, who was escorted to the ring by multiple pianists performing his entrance theme just before fireworks erupted overhead.

Although those kinds of entrances haven’t been used by the UFC yet, they might be at the appropriate event.

It is highly likely that the merger will also significantly benefit WWE’s ongoing media rights negotiations for RAW and SmackDown. Two years from now, the UFC’s current contract with ESPN is scheduled to expire.

Can Vince McMahon’s Role Impact WWE?  

Can Vince McMahon’s Role Impact WWE? 
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Following McMahon’s January return as executive chairman, rumors began to circulate that he was influencing some storylines. McMahon will definitely have clout now that he is confirmed to serve as executive chairman of the new spinoff company. However, McMahon stated to CNBC on Monday that the impact will be “in the weeds, no… on a higher level, yes.” Not able to do that.

He moved away and hasn’t come back to the screen. Despite McMahon’s presence, Triple H led-produced his first WrestleMania this past weekend and kicked off Raw on Monday with a speech about pots and mergers. But it’s unclear how much control McMahon wants over creativity now that his position in the company is assured going forward.

Wrapping Up

“The creation of TKO marks an exciting new chapter for UFC and WWE as leaders in global sports and entertainment,” Endeavor CEO Ariel Emanuel said in a statement. We are convinced that we can spur their individual growth and create long-term, sustainable value for shareholders because of their continuous connection to the Endeavor network. We will give more than a billion ardent fans worldwide experiences that are unmatched by combining the UFC and WWE under one roof.

The much-discussed merger between the WWE and UFC was first revealed in April of this year. Paul “Triple H” Levesque will continue to lead creative for WWE, while Dana White will presumably oversee day-to-day operations at the UFC.

If you have thoughts to share or questions to ask about who owns UFC, please leave a comment below. We would love to hear from you!

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Sarmind is a Writer and an aspiring Editor who has experience in various short and long-form niches. Her academic pursuits intensely mold her industry background in content creation. She holds a Master's degree in Literature, and when not writing for professional purposes, she can be found re-reading old classics of Jane Austen and the Brontë sisters. She is super fond of cats and enjoys hours of doom-scrolling through memes on social media while cuddled up with a cup of desi chai. She likes to think she is an intellectual badass (colloquial: nerdy bore), and now all she needs is a sewing kit to complete the look!

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