When the UFC was on the verge of extinction, Dana White talked the Fertitta brothers into buying the company based on the promise he saw inherent in such a dynamic and exciting sport.
Since that time, he has fought tooth-and-nail to drag it out of the darkness and into the spotlight and now it stands as a legitimate rival to the only other real combative sport of note, boxing.
While White may have started off as nothing more than a man with a dream, content to let the sport speak for itself, he is now one of the top promoters in combative sport today.
But is he the best fight promoter ever?
The question is an obvious one, given the back-and-forth White has had with boxing promoters, specifically Bob Arum.
But if we are really going to pose the question, perhaps it is best to look at perhaps the biggest, most controversial boxing promoter in many years: Don King.
Of course, it’s hard to know where to begin with such a comparison; the “fight game” in the world of MMA is a drastically different thing simply because organizations rule the roost instead of the individual fighters.
Many would say that White is more company front man and manager rather than a fight promoter, and they have a point, to a degree.
But White is still in the business of selling fights, just like any boxing promoter.
To his credit, White has yet to lose a lawsuit brought by a fighter where Don King has been sued multiple times, although they were nearly all settled out of court.
So once we clear all the negatives from the table, we are left with their accomplishments, which are many.
White has turned the UFC (and by proxy the sport of MMA) into a legitimate sport with rules, regulations and a level of accountability no one thought would ever happen if they followed the sport from the early days.
Thus far, the UFC has had seven PPV events that sold over one million buys, with the highest being UFC 100, which did a staggering 1.6 million buys.
Don King has promoted some of the biggest gates in boxing history, but many of the biggest—Muhammad Ali vs. George Foreman, Mike Tyson vs. Michael Spinks, Oscar De La Hoya vs. Felix Trinidad—would need to be adjusted for “inflation” in order to get an accurate number as to just how well they did in today’s market.
But if one thing is for certain, Don King has made more millionaires than White and the UFC. For the fight between Ali and Foreman, King secured the then-record purse of 10 million dollars, way back in 1974.
Since then, King has promoted just about every big name in boxing history, including men like Ali, Tyson, Larry Holmes, Roberto Duran, Evander Holyfield, Julio Cesar Chavez and countless others.
At the end of the day, it is impossible to tell who is the best promoter. King is now 81 years old and has been in the business for well over thirty years, while the UFC is in many aspects still in its infancy.
So perhaps the real question is the simplest: who has given us the most meaningful and desired fights in their respective sports?
The answer to that question is totally selective as each fan is different; I myself feel White is the better promoter as he makes the fights we need to see more often than not.
But one thing is for sure—both men have provided us with some dandy fights.