There’s no denying that $4 billion is a boatload of money. As it turns out, the group led by talent agency giant WME-IMG that purchased the UFC for that staggering number reached out to some of the world’s most famous celebrities to chip in.
It has been announced that Abel “The Weeknd” Tesfaye, Adam Levine, Anthony Kiedis, Ben Affleck, Calvin Harris, Cam Newton, Conan O’Brien, Flea, Guy Fieri, Jimmy Kimmel, Li Na, LL COOL J, Maria Sharapova, Mark Wahlberg, Michael Bay, Rob Dyrdek, Robert Kraft, Serena Williams, Sylvester Stallone, Tom Brady, Trey Parker, Tyler Perry and Venus Williams have joined the UFC’s ownership group as investors.
“Expanding our ownership group to include this caliber of talent and entrepreneurs is a strong indicator of UFC’s fast-growing global presence,” UFC president Dana White said in a statement. “Our new investors bring an incredible depth of knowledge and experience to help us continue to elevate this brand and capitalize on its entertainment and sports crossover appeal.”
It is unknown how much money each celebrity put into the octagon-shaped pot, or if some were allowed to invest more than others.
Ari Emanuel, co-chief executive of WME-IMG, told The Wall Street Journal that he approached celebrities who he knew were fans of MMA. “They would always ask for tickets,” he said.
Furthermore, Emanuel wanted to partner with celebrities who could help make the case that the UFC was no longer a niche interest. “I think it’s a mainstream sport now,” he said.
Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. No doubt that this was a brilliant move by WME-IMG, but MMA is far from mainstream right now. However, there’s no better way to blast through the mainstream doors than by having celebrities push the product to their millions of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat followers.
Interestingly, NBA stars Shaquille O’Neal and Charles Barkley, who have attended countless UFC events over the years, were not on the list of the new UFC investors.
Take a good look, this is the new UFC.