UFC is about to go mainstream. Disagree? Try arguing with the MMA promoter's new celebrity owners.
In July, the company announced it was being sold from Zuffa LLC, which bought UFC for $2 million in 2001, to WME-IMG for $4 billion. But UFC's new ownership face is more than a talent agency.
On Conan Thursday night, Conan O'Brien, who is represented by WME, broke some intriguing news about the future of UFC.
"After the UFC deal was announced, WME - William Morris Endeavor - gave some of their clients an opportunity to purchase a small ownership stake in the UFC," O'Brien said. "I'm excited to announce that I was one of those clients."
"I said yes and so now I technically own a piece of the UFC. I am now part of a group of investors that includes Ben Affleck, Tom Brady, Mark Wahlberg, Adam Levine, Cam Newton, LL Cool J, Maria Sharapova, Serena Williams, Sylvester Stallone, just to name a very few."
Whoa. That's a pretty big deal from a sports perspective. Brady and Newton are two NFL stars based on the East Coast. Williams is still going strong in tennis at age 35, and she already owns a piece of the Miami Dolphins. Sharapova is suspended from tennis for two years, but she is confident investing. Stallone and Wahlberg both played boxers in movies (Rocky and The Fighter, respectively). Affleck is an avid Boston sports fan. LL Cool J and Adam Levine don't exactly have a high-profile sports background, but they see value in the investment.
This is just the tip of celebrity names who may be investors in UFC. O'Brien jokes that he thinks he owns $40 worth of the company. Even if celebrities own just a small stake in the brand, they can be expected to attend major UFC fights, boosting the profile of the sport. If more athletes get involved, there may be a push to attract fans already interested in other sports such as football.
Considering Ari Gold is roughly based off of WME Co-CEO Ari Emanuel, it is a shame Entourage never had an episode with Gold buying UFC (Wahlberg was an executive producer of Entourage). Vince and Turtle definitely would have invested in UFC.
UPDATE (Sept. 30, 2016, 1:35 p.m. ET):
A UFC press release revealed a longer list of celebrities that includes Venus Williams, Jimmy Kimmel, Guy Fieri, Flea, Michael Bay, Robert Kraft, Tyler Perry and others.
Here is the complete list of celebrities who bought a stake in UFC. Among them: LL Cool J, The Weeknd, Rob Dyrdek. pic.twitter.com/HIyUVm39Qx
— Mike Chiappetta MMA (@MikeChiappetta) September 30, 2016
-- Follow Jeffrey Eisenband on Twitter @JeffEisenband.