Mixed martial arts promotion UFC could be sold; Dalian Wanda, Blackstone interested: Report

The owners of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) are in advanced talks to sell the mixed martial arts promotion, ESPN.com has reported.

According to the report, at least four parties have put in bids: two Chinese groups — conglomerate Dalian Wanda and private equity and venture capital firm China Media Capital — private equity house The Blackstone Group and U.S. talent agency WME/IMG.

UFC, one of the world's most popular mixed martial arts promotion, is owned by Zuffa, whose largest shareholders are brothers Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta. Dana White, the president of UFC, who's well known as its public face, also owns a stake in Zuffa.

If a deal were to go through, the winning bid is likely to be for a valuation between $3.5 billion and $4 billion, people familiar with the negotiations told ESPN.com.

"As a private company, we don't discuss speculation or rumors related to our business," a spokesperson for the UFC told CNBC. However, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that UFC President Dana White has "vehemently denied" the organization is up for sale, while the Los Angeles Times said the reports of a possible sale were "overblown" according to sources.

Mixed martial arts have gained in prominence in recent years, powered by the appeal of stars such as Conor McGregor, Ronda Rousey and Jon Jones.

Dalian Wanda, run by Chinese billionaire Wang Jianlin, is the front-runner to win the auction, ESPN.com reported. Dalian Wanda already owns a 20 percent stake in Spanish football club Atletico Madrid as well as the Ironman triathlon franchise. The company also acquired movie studio Legendary Entertainment earlier this year.