Many fans associate Dana White with the UFC, with some incorrectly stating that he owns it. This assumption isn’t far-fetched – Dana has become the face of the UFC and helped grow it into a wildly successful, multibillion-dollar enterprise. But, who owns the UFC?
As of 2022, the UFC is 100% owned by Endeavor, a Hollywood-based talent agency. In 2021, Endeavor signed a deal to acquire complete control of the UFC after previously owning 50.1%.
Endeavor Group Holdings, Inc (formerly known as WME or WME-IMG William Morris Endeavor Entertainment) represents musicians, TV personalities, social media influencers, and more, in addition to representing the NFL, NHL, and owning Miss Universe.
The company’s key people are Ari Emanuel (CEO) and Patrick Whitesell (Executive chairman). You may know Ari Emanuel as Ari Gold from HBO’s hit series, Entourage.
Before Endeavor increased its stake in the UFC to 100% controlling interest, about 40% was jointly owned by several PE firms who, in 2016, helped Endeavor own a 50.1% stake for about $4 billion.
UFC’s Ownership History
The UFC was founded in 1993 by Brazilian-born Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Grand Master Rorion Gracie and businessman Art Davie.
Back then, however, the UFC had few rules and no weight classes. The tournaments dubbed ‘War of the Worlds’ often featured smaller fighters taking on significantly larger opponents.
Later, 28 other investors came together to start WOW Promotions, aimed at turning the tournament into a TV franchise. WOW partnered with Semaphore Entertainment Group (SEG), a pay-per-view TV pioneer, to broadcast the fights. This show was dubbed The Ultimate Fighting Championship.
The SEG also wanted a way to distinguish their ring from wrestling or boxing rings. The Octagon, which has since become the UFC’s trademark signature setting, was born.
However, in 1995, Art Davie and Rorion Gracie sold their stake in the franchise to SEG and disbanded WOW Promotions. The years that followed would see the UFC face numerous challenges owing to its violent, no-holds-barred style of combat.
The tournament was banned in many states, and audiences dwindled. The SEG went to work, rebranding, introducing rules, rounds, weight classes, and working with regulators to change perceptions about a sport branded ‘human cockfighting’ by some.
The effort to secure sanctioning left SEG on the verge of bankruptcy, with SEG owner Bob Meyrowitz looking to sell. Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz manager Dana White met Bob Meyrowitz and reached out to childhood buddy Lorenzo Fertita, who, with his brother Frank, created Zuffa LLC and bought the UFC for $2 million.
They made Dana White company president and worked to turn the UFC into a massive success.
In 2016, the Fertitta brothers sold the UFC to Endeavor (WME-IMG), a Hollywood-based talent agency. The sale was for a 50.1% stake turning their initial $2 million investment into US$4.025 billion. At the time, Dana White owned a 9% stake in the organization.
The new owners had Dana continue as the UFC president, and rightfully so – He’s been the UFC’s biggest asset for a long time.
In 2019, Dana White signed a seven-year contract with the UFC, which leaves him as the president until 2026. And in 2021, Endeavor bought out PE firms and other investors enjoined with Zuffa’s at a $1.75 billion valuation for a controlling stake in the UFC.
Currently, Endeavor owns 100% of the UFC.
Does Dana White own the UFC?
No, Dana White does not own the UFC. Yes, the UFC has grown immensely under his stewardship, a stark difference from the SEG-run organization from back in the day, and he did own about a 9% stake at one point before Endeavor’s purchase in 2016.
As UFC president, Dana made a bold call when the pandemic struck, choosing to move forward with all of our events. As a result, the UFC saw 20% viewership growth on ESPN and broke a revenue record at the height of the pandemic, with most other sports franchises plummeting.