5 Ways Dana White Single-Handedly Changed Mixed Martial Arts
Even more than Chael Sonnen or Tito Ortiz from a few years ago, it is the UFC president who catches both the attention of mixed martial arts fans and the media alike.
White may have people who despise him, but he has changed MMA in ways that no other human being could have from taking a a half-dead promotion and turning it into the face of MMA to buying out his competition.
Dana White has made MMA what it is today. Others may have helped along the way, but it was his well-marketed dream that made it happen.
White has made some serious power plays to help the sport and grow the UFC.
Here are the most notable.
Buying the UFC
It all started with him convincing his friends, the Fertitta brothers, to buy the UFC.
The company was on the verge of bankruptcy and was banned from most states and from being on television. It was considered barbaric and a spectacle that only bloodthirsty savages would watch.
John McCain even likened it to "human cockfighting."
Other than the sport disappearing completely, there wasn't a way it could get any lower.
Dana White not only convinced his friends to sink an enormous amount of money into a failing product, but to stick with it through the rocky years. He was able to use those same skills to gain new fans for the sport.
It wouldn't be the last time White was able to use his ability to sell his vision to others to move the sport forward either.
Getting The Ultimate Fighter on Spike TV
It can't be overstated how crucial The Ultimate Fighter was into changing the direction of MMA. It turned guys like Chris Leben from violent animals into sympathetic human beings who had issues and problems like the rest of us.
Leben went from being an alcoholic, violent monster to being a person with deep-seated emotional issues. Stephan Bonnar and Diego Sanchez argued over asparagus and how much Sanchez had used in a meal.
These were real moments and they changed the perception of MMA by many people who had seen it demonized.
It was all thanks to Dana White. He was able to convince Spike TV to air what at the time was considered controversial material.
It culminated in Stephan Bonnar-Forrest Griffin I and started the chain reaction that would help grow the UFC to what it is today.
Buying Up Rivals
PRIDE, WEC and Strikeforce all have one thing in common: They were purchased by the UFC and merged into the company with the exception of Strikeforce.
Even with Strikeforce remaining, their heavyweights are moving to the UFC. Dana White has always been shrewd and knowing when to pick apart his competition has always helped. He knew when to snatch up each property and how to maximize it for his company's benefit.
It might make the world of MMA one-dimensional when it comes to promoting big fights, but it also helped expedite MMA's growth as a mainstream sport.
It may damage the future of the sport, but nothing was said about every change being a positive one.
Striking a Deal with FOX Network
Dana White was on a plane multiple times and in talks with the network enough that it had to be sickening. That he was able to keep it from fans and the media as much as it was is impressive.
The final result is what stands out, though.
Dana White was able to take a sport that had been at one time ailing and push it to the point of getting on network TV. Not only did he do that, he got a multi-year deal and on the UFC's terms.
It speaks volumes of the sport's growth and White's involvement that both things were able to happen. Where it will take MMA is as of yet unknown. This is uncharted territory.
Dana White helped broker the deal, though, and wherever it heads, it will be thanks to him.
Making Himself the Face of MMA
At first this seems like a selfish thing to do.
Fighters are the ones who step into the cage and take the risks. Why should White get to be seen as the figurehead?
That is because fighters will come and go or retire one day while White remains. He will be there for as long as he needs to be while Jon Jones could fall from grace tomorrow or decide to retire like Brock Lesnar.
With White, there is no such possibility. He will be with the company until he retires or is forced to step down. That means that no matter what turmoil the sport faces, he will be there to deal with it. It won't always be in the most appropriate way, but it will have serious impact because most recognize White.
The UFC is the face of MMA.
Dana White is the face of the UFC.
It may not be perfect, but with what the man has done for the sport, it does make sense.