The Dalian Wanda Group looks to be significantly strengthening its sports portfolio with reports that it is in advanced talks to buy the UFC organisation.
The Chinese conglomerate is understood to have submitted a bid for the fast growing mixed martial arts promotion, according to ESPN. Dalian Wanda Group has been named as the led bidder, however WME/IMG, China Media Capital and The Blackstone Group are all understood to have also submitted bids.
Multiple sources with knowledge of the negotiations claim that, if talks proceed, the winning bid would likely be between $3.5bn and $4bn.
UFC president Dana White dismissed reports that the privately owned company was on the market, saying that "the UFC is not for sale".
The organisation’s vice president of public relations and athlete marketing, Dave Sholler, was equally tight lipped on the reports, adding: “As a private company, we don't discuss speculation or rumours related to our business.”
The UFC is currently owned by Zuffa, a sports promotion company which bought the business for just $2m in 2001. Zuffa’s owners Lorenzo Fertitta along with his brother Frank, each worth a reported $1.6bn, own more than 80 per cent of the UFC with White and the Abu Dhabi government also owning minority stakes in the business.
As a privately owned company, the UFC does not make its financial information public, however in an interview with CNN in December Lorenzo revealed that the company grossed around $600m in revenue in 2014. Since then its valuation is likely to have grown significantly as a result of a record breaking 2015 thanks to two of the sport’s biggest stars, Conor McGregor and Ronda Rousey, and the growth of the UFC’s online streaming platform UFC Fight Pass.
The Dalian Wanda Group has begun to accelerate its foray into sports. Last year the company’s chairman and richest man in China,Wang Jianlin, bought a 20 per cent stake Atletico Madrid. The company followed up on this in March when it took advantage of the Fifa scandal and signed on as one of Fifa’s biggest sponsors until 2030.