It was once a subsidiary of holding firm Zuffa, but UFC was sold to a group led by talent agency WME-IMG for $4 billion in 2016. At the time, the UFC ranked as the largest sports acquisition in history.
WME-IMG has since changed its name to Endeavor and remains the controlling owner of UFC. Other stakeholders include investment firms Silver Lake Partners, KKR & Company, and MSD Capital, as well as longtime UFC President Dana White.
Shortly after acquiring UFC, Endeavor invited nearly two dozen celebrities to invest in the mixed martial arts brand. The list included bona fide stars across the sports and entertainment spectrum, including actor Mark Wahlberg, celebrity chef Guy Fieri, supermodel Gisele Bundchen and New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft.
UFC rewarded the celebrity investors with a $300 million dividend earlier this year, according to the New York Post. White and Endeavor executives Ari Emanuel and Patrick Whitesell each netted more than $3 million, while Wahlberg received about $500,000.
The dividend was the first of its kind since UFC was sold. The move prompted renewed scrutiny of UFC’s pay practices for fighters, who are employed as independent contractors.
UFC has drawn repeated criticism in recent years over fighter compensation, which amounted to just 16 percent of its $900 million in revenue in 2019, according to the Post. By comparison, most other U.S. sports leagues share between 47 and 50 percent of revenue with their players.
“It’s different league by league,” Endeavor president Mark Shapiro told the Post. “We pay our fighters significantly more than any other MMA organization. They deserve it. Fighter compensation has gone up commensurately with the success of UFC.”