UFC, WWE combine to create $21.4B entertainment company

The best of WrestleMania 39 Night 2 (3:29)

Check out some of the best performances from superstars such as Roman Reigns, Brock Lesnar and Edge from Night 2 of WrestleMania 39. (3:29)

Endeavor, the parent company of UFC, and WWE announced on Monday that they have signed a landmark agreement to form a new, publicly traded company -- listed on the New York Stock Exchange as "TKO" -- that will consist of the MMA and pro wrestling brands.

The sale of WWE to Endeavor -- which is expected to close in the second half of this year pending regulatory approval -- will merge the two biggest global brands in combat sports.

The transaction values the new, unnamed sports entertainment company at $21.4 billion (UFC at $12.1 billion and WWE at $9.3 billion). Endeavor CEO Ari Emanuel will continue in that role along with becoming the CEO of the new company.

Vince McMahon, who purchased what was then called the WWF in 1982 from his father for approximately $1 million, will serve as executive chairman of the 11-member board. Dana White will continue to serve as president of UFC, and Nick Khan will serve as president of WWE.

"You know how highly I think of Dana," Khan told ESPN. "Vince only has respect for what Dana has built or helped to build. So, we think it's gonna be just fine. And if there are any debates, those will be in private. Once we come out of the debate room, we're aligned and we move forward together.

"You have the two greatest promoters of the last 30 to 40 years now in the same house [White and McMahon]. We can only learn from one another."

The transaction came just hours after WWE delivered its annual marquee event, WrestleMania, over two days at Los Angeles' SoFi Stadium. The sold-out two-night event -- the 39th iteration of WrestleMania -- generated a gate of more than $21.6 million, breaking the previous record by 27%, according to WWE.

Night 2 surpassed WWE's global viewership record by 33% one day after the first night broke the record by 28%. WrestleMania 39 also broke sponsorship and merchandise records, WWE said. Across social media platforms, WWE's WrestleMania content generated over 500 million views alongside 11 million hours of video consumed over the weekend.

WWE is on the heels of its first billion-dollar revenue year and now will join forces with a fellow media powerhouse in the UFC. McMahon said they will boast a "collective fan base of more than a million people."

"I think it's an incredible opportunity for us to continue growing what is already a global brand in WWE," said Khan, who formerly served as a top agent at CAA before he accepted the role of WWE president in 2020. "We're in 170 countries. Now, we'll have the opportunity to monetize each and every one of those countries in a far better way with Endeavor's global presence."

UFC's rights deal with ESPN, which includes ESPN+ exclusivity for each monthly pay-per-view event, expires in 2025. WWE's deals with Fox ("Friday Night SmackDown") and NBC Universal ("Monday Night Raw" on USA) -- worth around $500 million combined annually -- expire in the fall of 2024. WWE's five-year, $1 billion deal with NBC Universal to carry its vast library and monthly premium live events on Peacock expires in 2026.

"I think live [TV rights] continues to go up," Khan said. "Our ratings are up; our relevancy's up; our revenue's up. We'd like to think we have the hot hand going into these [live-TV rights] negotiations. We'll see if we're right or we're wrong.

"Whenever you have more quality tonnage, it gives you more leverage in the marketplace.

"That excites us -- for our shareholders and our fans."

As to whether the new company would enter the fragmented boxing industry, Khan said the focus right now is on full integration between UFC and WWE. Khan formerly managed Hall of Fame boxers Manny Pacquiao and James Toney, and he negotiated Top Rank's deal with ESPN while he was an agent at CAA.

The sales process began in January when WWE retained the services of multiple outside firms to explore strategic alternatives. McMahon, who announced his retirement last summer after allegations that he used company funds to cover up sexual misconduct accusations, returned as executive chairman in January to help oversee the process.

"The new company will be well-positioned to maximize the value of our combined media rights, enhance sponsorship monetization, develop new forms of content, and pursue other strategic mergers and acquisitions to further bolster our strong stable of brands," said McMahon, 77. "I, along with the current WWE management team, look forward to working closely with Ari and the Endeavor and UFC teams to take the businesses to the next level."

Some crossover already exists between the two companies. EX-UFC stars Brock Lesnar and Ronda Rousey both competed Sunday at WrestleMania. And WWE star Matt Riddle formerly competed for the UFC.

"This is a rare opportunity to create a global live sports and entertainment pure play built for where the industry is headed," Emanuel said. "For decades, Vince and his team have demonstrated an incredible track record of innovation and shareholder value creation, and we are confident that Endeavor can deliver significant additional value for shareholders by bringing UFC and WWE together."