Gather around, kids. Let me tell you a little story.
Last December, when I was living in Las Vegas, I texted Dana White to see if I, and the folks at my old employer, could stop by his office for an interview. He responded immediately in the affirmative.
This wasn't a new thing. White was always giving with his time. If he had a spare moment and we needed something, he'd do anything he could to help out.
We went up to Dana's office, a white-walled and massive room on the second floor. I'm sure you've seen it plenty of times, but this is one cool office. It has all sorts of interesting artwork, from his infamous giant "F*CK" painting to the awesome photo of a gorilla hand holding a revolver. Like everything else in White's life, he hand-selected this artwork, and everything has a reason for being there.
As we typically did, we hung out for a bit before doing the interview, rarely talking about the UFC at all.
"Hey, check this out," White said to me.
He motioned towards a corner of his office. It's essentially a closet, spaced off from the rest of the office by a wall. This is White's real office. It has his computer, phone and all of the other things—besides his trusty cell phone, of course—that he needs to run the biggest fighting company in the world.
White proceeded to show us a video of his recent vacation to Australia where he took his kids surfing. The vacation lasted over two weeks, and I found myself struck by a two questions: Dana White takes vacations? When did this start?
I tell you this story mostly because it answers the question I posed in the title. Dana White doesn't need to take a step back because Dana White started taking baby steps back long ago.
The thought of White going on vacation, even for a few days, would have been a ridiculous notion even a few years ago when he was burning the candle at both ends and only getting off Zuffa's private jet to attend business meetings or promote fights. That schedule—though still incredibly busy by "normal people" standards—has calmed down considerably in the past 18 months.
If you're asking me if the UFC would be better off without White as the public face of the company?
That's a stupid question, honestly, and it has an easy answer: no. Not only no, but a resounding hell no.
Simply put, the UFC would not be where it is today had White not been at the helm and been the public face of the company for the past decade. His willingness to sell his product and interact with fans, both in person and via Twitter, make him one of the most accessible sporting figures in the world. White's connection to the fans via Twitter has both created—and more recently—canceled, fights that were in the planning stages.
White wasn't alone in turning the UFC into a powerhouse in live event and pay-per-view promotion. There are a ton of talented people in those Zuffa offices that work long hours seven days a week to help push the brand forward.
But he played a large part in it. His proclivity for saying exactly what's on his mind resonates with his fans. He's the right man for the culture created around the sport.
Will that always be the case? I don't know, and it's hard to decide. There may come a day when he'll need to step aside and bring in a cleaner-cut, more "normal" sporting authority to assume the role as the public face of the UFC.
But for now, he's right where he belongs.
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