Dana White makes the big money roll nowadays since his overhaul of the UFC as the UFC president. With that money, White had no problem rewarding himself with nice toys. Dub Magazine recently featured White’s car collection, and thoughts on the direction of management of the UFC.
What makes mixed martial arts such a compelling sport to you and fans?
Dana: I believe that fighting was the first sport on Earth. I believe that two men popped up on Earth, somebody said something, somebody threw a punch and whoever was standing around ran over to go watch it. I have no proof whatsoever, but I guarantee you that f*cking happened. Before a guy picked up a stick and said, “Hey, throw me that thing!” and f*cking hit it, or some guy threw a f*cking rock through a circle, somebody got punched in the face and people sat around and watched it.
How did you first get exposed to mixed martial arts and the UFC?
Dana: I’d been involved in boxing my whole life. One night, Frank (Fertitta) and I were at the Hard Rock. We saw a guy named John Lewis who used to fight in the UFC; he’s a Jiu-Jitsu guy. We set up a private lesson [with Lewis] and started taking Jiu-Jitsu. I can’t remember if it was the blue or red pill in The Matrix, but that’s what it was like. When I did my first Jiu-Jitsu class, I was blown away. I was like, “How am I walking around for 30 years and not knowing this?” This was 1998. (Writer’s note: It was the red pill).
Can you describe how this experience evolved into you and the Fertittas buying the UFC?
Dana: I started to meet some of the fighters. Then, I started managing Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz. Through that, I got into this huge contract battle with the old owner of the UFC over Tito’s contract. And that’s when I found out that the UFC was in trouble and would probably go out of business. At the time, Frank, Lorenzo and I were talking about getting into the boxing [promotion] business. I called them and said, “I think we can buy these guys.” A month later, we owned the company.
What was something you wanted to do with mixed martial arts from the outset that was different from pro boxing?
Dana: When I was a kid, my dad and all my uncles used to watch boxing. All the big fights would be on ABC’s “Wide World of Sports.” I remember sitting there watching the fights, and I started to love it. Once everything went to a Pay-Per-View model [in the 1990s], boxing promoters didn’t put sh*t on free TV anymore. Kids that were 10 years old in 1991, for those 10 years, didn’t see boxing on television regularly. You just knocked off an entire generation from being involved in your sport. My main goal was, no matter what it costs, no matter what it takes, we need to get fights on free TV. And now, [starting] with the first season of “The Ultimate Fighter,” we have a generation that has grown up with the UFC. We’re in 175 different countries on television where kids are growing up right now watching fights with their dads. That’s how you build a business.
What other mistakes from boxing did you want to avoid after taking over the UFC?
Dana: The sport not being run by one organization; the sport being fragmented. There are so many sanctioning organizations [in boxing], and they would only sanction guys they could deal with. So you could never pull off a lot of the big fights. Or the fights would happen long after they should have. I said if we can go in there and lock up the space, we get all the best fighters in the world and we can [then] make any fight we want to make.