Celebrities and sports stars get behind UFC

Conor McGregor gestures as he arrives for his welterweight rematch against Nate Diaz at the UFC 202 event at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada on Aug 20, 2016.
Conor McGregor gestures as he arrives for his welterweight rematch against Nate Diaz at the UFC 202 event at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada on Aug 20, 2016.PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK • Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), the US-based mixed martial arts juggernaut, says that more than 20 top celebrities from the worlds of sports and entertainment have piled in as investors.

Among the league's new investors are tennis stars Maria Sharapova as well as sisters Serena and Venus Williams, and Hollywood actors Sylvester Stallone and Ben Affleck, UFC said on Friday.

Money reportedly has been pouring in for the fast-growing UFC, whose bloody cage fights were once equated with cockfights.

UFC produces more than 40 live events a year that are broadcast in over 156 countries and territories.

Contacted by AFP, UFC declined to give details about the amount of each new investment or the size of the shareholding.

  • $5.45 billion

  • Reported amount the William Morris Endeavor-International Marketing Group paid to acquire the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

UFC did not disclose the price, but US media said it was US$4 billion (S$5.45 billion).

Involved in the WME-IMG acquisition in July were Silver Lake Partners, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, MSD Partners and MSD Capital. The latter two are investment vehicles for entrepreneur Michael Dell.

According to a person with knowledge of the situation, WME-IMG remains the majority stakeholder in the organisation.

WME-IMG bought the organisation from brothers Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta, who had bought it for US$2 million in 2001.

UFC does not publish its financial details, but Lorenzo Fertitta said last year that it had US$600 million in revenue in 2015.

UFC fighters battle in an Octagon, an eight-sided 750 sq ft cage.

The fighters, gloved and barefoot, are allowed to combine techniques from different forms of martial arts, but rules try to limit serious injury.

After years of being banned, mixed martial arts fights are allowed in the state of New York.

UFC 205 will take place in Madison Square Garden in New York City on Nov 12.

The main event on the card is the lightweight title fight between Conor McGregor and Eddie Alvarez.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 03, 2016, with the headline 'Celebrities and sports stars get behind UFC'. Print Edition | Subscribe