Dana White says UFC 'not for sale' despite ESPN report

Kevin Iole
·Combat columnist

LAS VEGAS – UFC president Dana White told Yahoo Sports on Tuesday that the company is not for sale in the wake of a report which said sales talks are in the advanced stages.

ESPN's Darren Rovell reported Tuesday that four companies have placed bids that are valued between $3.5 billion to $4 billion. Rovell identified the bidders as WME/IMG, China Media Capital, The Blackstone Group and Dalian Wanda Group.

Ari Emanuel, the co-CEO of WME, is very close with White and UFC co-owners Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta. WME’s Brad Slater represents UFC superstar Ronda Rousey.

White and the Fertitta brothers purchased the UFC in January 2001 from Semaphore Entertainment Group for $2 million.

Rovell reported that Goldman Sachs was representing the UFC in sales talks. Goldman Sachs served as the UFC’s investment adviser in 2010 when Flash Entertainment, a subsidiary of the government of Abu Dhabi, purchased 10 percent of the company.

Since the UFC became profitable about 10 years ago, there have been constant rumors that the company was for sale. White has almost always laughed them off and said the fight business is in his DNA.

When pressed Tuesday by Yahoo Sports for a reaction to the ESPN report, all he said was, “We are not for sale.” He declined further comment.

Given the price tag, ESPN's story makes it appear as if the entire company is being sold. White and the Fertittas have previously brought on a partner, so it is not out of the question that another company could be looking to buy a piece of it.

Prior to the sale to Flash, each Fertitta brother owned 45 percent of the UFC and White had 10 percent. Flash purchased 10 percent, with White dropping to 9 percent ownership and the Fertitta brothers dropping to 40.5 apiece.

Ariel Helwani of MMA Fighting tweeted Tuesday that “ ... China’s Wanda Group was the current front-runner in these talks and the sale could be announced as soon as July.”