By Mikaela Russell, Staff Writer
Endeavor, UFC’s Parent Company, announces that the WWE and UFC will combine into one public trading company, ending a decades-long family-owned business empire.
Endeavor Group, founded by Ari Emanuel, has now purchased World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) and plans to spin out a new publicly traded business that merges WWE and UFC. The McMahon family has owned and operated WWE for decades, and the agreement values the company at $9.3 billion, while the UFC, which is owned by Endeavor, is valued at $12.1 billion.
Endeavor Group Holdings will hold a 51% controlling interest in the new company once the deal is complete. While existing WWE shareholders will hold a 49% stake in the new company.
Ari Emanuel, the chief executive officer of Endeavor, will lead the new, unnamed enterprise. WWE executive chairman Vince McMahon will operate in the same capacity at the new company. Dana White will continue to serve as president of UFC, while Nick Khan will lead WWE.
All three chairholders had provided their thoughts on the new business venture, with Dana White stating his appreciation of Emmanuel’s effort in getting it done.
“I like the [WWE/Endeavor] deal, I’m very supportive of it. I knew that they were working on it a long time ago, and Ari is super respectful like that,” he said in an interview with Scott Wapner of CNBC. “Ari wanted to make sure that everybody was good with this before we move forward with it, and I think that Ari is gonna bring a lot of value. It doesn’t change anything over here.”
In a separate interview with LightShed Live, Nick Khan voiced his reasoning for why now was the perfect time to go through with this process.
“Vince and I had many conversations about adding the things that Endeavor adds. Could we do them on our own? Maybe, but it would take 10 years. But in 10 years, Vince would be 87, and Endeavor would have 10 years more experience if we sold now. The cards lined up at this moment. It was a fulsome process with multiple offers, but we got the right offer, at the right time, with the right partner.”
Vince McMahon confidently expressed the combined value of this partnership in his statement.
“Together, we will be a $21+ billion live sports and entertainment powerhouse with a collective fanbase of more than a billion people and an exciting growth opportunity,” he said.
“The new company will seek to maximize the value of its combined media rights, increase sponsorship monetization, develop new forms of content, and pursue additional strategic mergers and acquisitions to further strengthen their brands,” McMahon added.
The agreement between Endeavor and WWE propels WWE into a new era after decades as a family-run business. In 1982, McMahon purchased Capitol Wrestling from his father and expanded the regional wrestling business to a national audience with Andre the Giant, Hulk Hogan, and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. In 1985, the company that later became World Wrestling Federation and World Wrestling Entertainment hosted the first WrestleMania.
In the past, it was speculated that Endeavor, Disney, Fox, Comcast, Amazon, and the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia might be interested in purchasing WWE.
The WWE was viewed as an attractive acquisition target by industry experts due to its global reach and devoted fanbase, which includes people of all ages and income levels.
But what do the beloved fans of the UFC and WWE truly think of this merger?
Junior economics major, Isaiah Duvall, expressed his thoughts.
“I’m a huge fan of the UFC, my dad got tickets for us to see UFC 200 back in 2016 for my birthday, and that’s when I truly fell in love with the combat sport, but I am aware of the merge, and I have mixed feelings about it,” he said.
Duvall feels these corporations operate for entirely different markets and fanbases.
“I can’t say I’m a fan of the WWE, it’s too artificial for me. They coordinate who wins and who loses in those matches, they have celebrities entering the ring, which is a bit odd, and it doesn’t seem fitting for sports entertainment. I feel only trained wrestlers should be introduced, while the UFC, it’s raw, it’s more intense and there is no previous chosen winner. Whoever gets KO’d, loses the fight, and they’re trained combat fighters,” he said. “That’s how it should be in sports entertainment. I don’t think true combat fans are really interested to see Bad Bunny, a singer, jumping off ropes. If they wanted to see him, they would buy tickets to his concert.”
Sophomore business major, Chris Dasantis, shared his thoughts about where he expects both brands to go.
“As a kid, I loved the WWE, but I grew out of it after learning that style of fighting is planned, but then I grew more into Boxing and the UFC because of its unpredictable fighting style. I think this merge is just a way for the CEO’s to make more money,” he said. I think they’ll keep things the way they are, I think UFC fans would be shocked if they started predicting winners before their fights, and it would be bad for business, but it would be interesting to see the WWE changing their ways of predicting fights.”
Sophomore business major, Casey Lovett, shared his thoughts as well, projecting his desire to see both groups of fighters tackle the idea of competing at each stage.
“It’s an interesting discussion made by both companies. There’s a lot of potential with fighters having an opportunity to perform in a different ring. I know that Logan Paul is new to the WWE, and it would be interesting to see if he would stay just in WWE or switch stages and be in [the] octagon. He would obviously have to train for MMA, but I’d watch it. I would be entertained by the idea to switch fighters around,” he said.
Lovett speaks on the possibility of having Dana White commentate a WWE match.
“I highly doubt it, he never was in favor of the WWE, but when money is involved, anything is possible. It would have to be like Jon Jones making his WWE debut or McGregor, then I feel like he would be interested in being involved,” he said.
Senior sports management major Kaden Farley, a UFC fan, believes this merger will do big things for the sports and entertainment industries.
“Nothing is set in stone, but this move will do a lot for sports entertainment. I think the merge will bring new opportunities to allow fighters to switch off different stages, and bring more viewers in, as the fights will bring a new type of hype to it, introducing new faces to either the WWE or UFC. I definitely feel as new details unfold, fans will be interested to tune into either one depending on how more exciting one fight is than the other,” he said. “It’s all about who will be on the cards now that Endeavors have taken most of the reign. I’m staying optimistic, something like this has never happened in sports entertainment, so it’s all new to me, but also exciting.”
In the upcoming months, more details will emerge. For now, WWE and UFC fans continue to wonder what the future holds for sports entertainment and if any other shocking surprises will be announced because of the merger.