weather icon Mostly Cloudy

UFC ownership group adds major star power

The massive success of the UFC over the last 15 years helped make its Las Vegas-based owners superstars in the sports world.

An estimated $4 billion sale of the organization in July helped usher in a whole new era that will now see global celebrities become part-owners of the world’s largest mixed martial arts promotion.

Talk-show host Conan O’Brien announced on his show Thursday night he is part of a group of 23 stars of sport, stage and screen investing in the UFC.

The story was first reported by The Wall Street Journal late Thursday.

O’Brien is joined by a diverse group that includes Ben Affleck as well as Venus and Serena Williams.

A group headed by Hollywood powerhouse WME-IMG purchased the organization from Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta in July. The agency wasted little time in adding star power to the ownership.

Most of the new stakeholders are represented by WME-IMG, according to The Wall Street Journal. Terms of their investments were not disclosed.

“I think I own $40 worth,” O’Brien joked on his show.

Ari Emanuel, the co-chief executive of WME-IMG and the inspiration of the Ari Gold character in the HBO series “Entourage,” told the newspaper the big-name additions show the sport has taken its place in America’s athletic landscape.

“I think it’s a mainstream sport now,” he said.

Las Vegas native Jimmy Kimmel, another talk show host, is another new investor. Tom Brady, Cam Newton and Maria Sharapova are also part of the group.

The UFC is expected to formally announce the news, along with a full list of celebrity investors, on Friday.

Contact reporter Adam Hill at ahill@reviewjournal.com or 702-224-5509. Follow on Twitter: @adamhilllvrj

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Covering The Cage Videos
UFC's Francis Ngannou says he never doubted himself after losses - Video
UFC heavyweight Francis Ngannou will face Junior dos Santos at UFC on ESPN 3 in Minneapolis, Minn., on June 29 in a bout that could determine the next title contender. After losing in a title bout to Stipe Miocic in 2018, Ngannou says he never doubted himself. He also talks about meeting former NBA star Shaquille O'Neal. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Dana White on Contender Series contracts: "I'm looking for killers." - Video
On opening night at the UFC's newest facility, the UFC Apex, the promotion signed Punahele Soriano and Yorgan De Castro to contracts after their performances on Dana White's Contender Series. UFC president Dana White explains why he signed the fighters he did.
UFC Apex is the promotion's newest cutting-edge facility - VIDEO
The UFC Apex will officially open as Dana White's Tuesday Night Contender Series kicks off on June 19. Here's a look at what the promotion's newest facility in Las Vegas has to offer.
UFC President Dana White on the UFC Apex, ESPN deal, when Conor McGregor could return and more - Video
UFC President Dana White gave the Review-Journal an exclusive interview where he spoke about the promotion's new facility, the UFC Apex, their new deal with ESPN, when Conor McGregor may return to the octagon and more.
Shevchenko says defending the UFC flyweight belt is her number one challenge
UFC women's flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko claimed the vacant title when she defeated Joanna Jedrzejczyk at UFC 231 last December. She will put the belt on the line for the first time in Chicago, Ill., when she faces Jessica Eye at UFC 238 on June 8.
UFC title contender Jessica Eye says her move to Las Vegas gives her an edge
Ohio native Jessica Eye says she moved to Las Vegas to get an edge in performance ahead of facing UFC women's flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko at UFC 238 in Chicago, Ill., on June 8.
Greg Hardy, former NFL star, on MMA knockout
The former NFL star needed just 17 seconds to score a knockout on Dana White's Tuesday Night Contender Series (Adam Hill/Review-Journal)
Marlon Moraes says Henry Cejudo will regret stepping up to bantamweight - VIDEO
UFC flyweight champion Henry Cejudo is coming up to the bantamweight division to battle Marlon Moraes for the vacant belt on June 8 at UFC 238. Moraes said Cejudo will regret going after a second title in a new division and added that he thinks his path will cross with former champion TJ Dillashaw in the future.
Paige VanZant details her arm injury, when she can return - VIDEO
UFC strawweight Paige VanZant was briefly linked to fight at UFC 236, but had to withdraw from the bout due to a broken arm. As a guest on the RJ Ringside Podcast, she detailed the injury and also spoke about joining the M-1 Global booth as a color commentator.
Tony Ferguson beats Donald Cerrone by TKO at UFC 238

Tony Ferguson’s path to the lightweight title is becoming clear. Ferguson won by technical knockout after a medical stoppage in a lightweight fight against Donald Cerrone at UFC 238 on Saturday night.