The UFC has been sold for $4 billion in what sources say is the biggest sports deal in history, per Las Vegas Now. After months of rumors, UFC President Dana White announced the sale to a group led by Hollywood talent agency WME-IMG—which boasts UFC stars like Ronda Rousey as clients and has Ari Emanuel as its co-CEO—on Sunday night, reports the AP. The deal marks a major milestone for the global entertainment brand, bought by casino owners Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta in 2000 for just $2 million, reports the New York Times. Taking advantage of social media marketing, distribution partnerships, and licensing deals, they transformed the brand into one that brought in $600 million in revenue last year. The Fertitta brothers will retain a minority interest in the company while White, their high school buddy, will continue running the UFC.
Though the sport was once referred to by John McCain as "human cockfighting," the UFC now has more than 500 athletes under contract, hosts some 40 events each year, and is broadcast in 156 countries, per the AP. "We've been honored to have UFC and a number of its athletes as clients and couldn't be happier to take our relationship to this next level as the organization's owner and operating partner," Emanuel says. "UFC has experienced tremendous growth over the last decade and we are looking forward to helping the organization and its athletes identify new opportunities to develop and further establish their global footprint.” Private equity firms Silver Lake Partners, which owns WME-IMG, and Kohlberg Kravis Roberts are backing the deal along with Michael Dell's investment firm. (Read more mixed martial arts stories.)