In an industry-defining announcement on Tuesday, Endeavor, the parent company of UFC, officially sealed the merger deal with WWE to establish a pioneering sports company, TKO. This monumental alliance marks a new frontier in promoting live sports events, with common ownership of two of the most prominent global powerhouses in the realm.
Trading under TKO on the New York Stock Exchange, this merger symbolizes an inflection point for both WWE and UFC, profoundly shaping the future of sports entertainment. Endeavor leads the pack, with a substantial 51% ownership of the consolidated entity. The remaining 49% will be distributed among WWE shareholders. Flaunting a whopping valuation of 21.4 billion dollars, TKO is poised to influence a diverse global audience of over a billion die-hard sports fans across 180 countries and lure them to their 350+ annual live events.
Foreseeing considerable revenue growth, TKO aims to capitalize on Endeavor’s well-established network in areas like international media rights, global partnerships, event operations, premium hospitality, licensing, and ticket sales.
At the executive level, while Vince McMahon, the past WWE major shareholder and chairman, will wear the hat of TKO’s executive chairman, Nick Khan, now serving as president of WWE, will also hold a board seat. Dana White transitions from being UFC’s president to assuming the CEO’s role. Simultaneously, Ari Emanuel from Endeavor will steer TKO as its CEO, with Mark Shapiro from Endeavor being the President and Chief Operating Officer.
The vision that the merger generates is an ambitious one. According to Lawrence Epstein, UFC’s Senior Executive Vice President, and COO, the goal is to blend the fan bases so that every WWE fan is also a UFC fan, and vice versa. First teased in April, the final union was built upon the strong similarities both McMahon and White identified in the UFC and WWE growth trajectories.
The blueprint for this merger began to take form when McMahon, along with Khan, Stephanie McMahon (Vince’s daughter), and Paul Levesque (Triple H), attended UFC276 in July 2022. McMahon’s vision of joining forces with Endeavor commenced from there, fueled further by the shared DNA between the companies.
Neither organization anticipates significant changes to their respective portfolios. The plan, as outlined by Epstein, is to combine major UFC and WWE events over a weekend in the same city, offering attractive package deals to tourism authorities. The collaborations can also enable promising talent crossovers among former UFC champions who transitioned to WWE, and vice versa.
From its conception in the early MMA days, the symbiotic relationship between UFC and WWE has now reached its peak under TKO. The merger agreement highlights the vision of a long-term collaboration catering to the specific needs of their respective audiences and talent crossover potential once their time in UFC ends. This could even mark an extended career for these fighters under the umbrella of WWE and TKO.