Dana White, center, stands between Daniel Cormier, left, and Jon Jones during a UFC 200 mixed martial arts news conference.
An official announcement is expected as soon as later today, July 11, but UFC president Dana White already confirmed the sale to ESPN.
White will stay on as president but chairman and chief executive Lorenzo Fertita, who bought the UFC with brother Frank for just US$2 million in 2001 and held an 80 per cent stake through the Zuffa company, is to step down. The New York Times reports that talent agency WME-IMG has purchased the league with backing from private equity companies such as Silver Lake, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, and billionaire Michael Dell's private investment firm.
The UFC was founded in 1993 as the Ultimate Fighting Championship, staging violent fights that were banned or unregulated in many areas.
With White acting as the public face of the UFC, the Fertitas helped transform the promotion from the point of oblivion become one of the fastest-growing sporting properties in the world. Other stars, who didn't participate in last night's event, include Ronda Rousey and Connor McGregor. "Our goal has always been to put on the biggest and the best fights for our fans, and to make this the biggest sport in the world".
The WME-IMG statement did not provide the terms of the deal.
The UFC's price tag has drawn gasps since it was first rumored earlier this year, but the consortium is basically buying an entire sport, given the UFC's omnipotence atop MMA.
With more than 500 athletes under contract, the UFC stages roughly 40 events per year and is broadcast in more than 150 countries, reaching 1.1 billion television households. The next contract is expected to be extraordinarily lucrative.
The deal was reportedly signed on Saturday, the same day as the massive UFC 200 event - promoted as the biggest event in UFC history.