“Tonight was the highest-grossing event, ever, in LG Arena’s history with a $1.5 million gate and 10,823 in attendance.”
In the last couple of years, these post-fight stats have become commonplace for the UFC as MMA continues its rapid ascent onto the global stage with Zuffa at the reins.
UFC president Dana White continued his familiar moderator role last night at the UFC 138 post-fight press conference, vehemently defeating the organization’s decision to bring the event’s main card to the English shores, amongst other things. This was obviously aimed at those who were quick to criticize the lineup prematurely before a single strike was thrown.
The UFC has no better front man—the sport has no better facilitator—than White when it comes to extending the reach of mixed martial arts around the world, and he was in vintage form at the presser.
When asked about pre-fight “grumblings” from the blogging world, White had this to say:
The fights were awesome tonight. It always drives me nuts when people talk about a card that hasn’t happened yet, that it sucks. None of these fighters up here suck. Joe Silva is the best matchmaker in the business and these guys came out and performed like they always do. As promoters, what we do in the UFC, we put on all the bells and whistles and these guys deliver. Oh boy, they delivered tonight and they will be getting paid.
Consequently, another contentious point involving fighters’ compensation was brought to White’s attention when a pundit referred to No. 1 welterweight contender Nick Diaz’s personal grumblings about getting paid from the last event’s post-fight presser.
Believe me, guys make money in this sport. The stuff Nick Diaz said is crazy; he also said he didn’t go to school to buy houses. Nick Diaz has made a lot of money this year; he can go buy whatever house he wants. Nobody wants to be paying these guys boxing money more than me.
Furthermore, DW explained how the road to where the company and sport is today hasn’t been paved with gold.
“We came from very humble beginnings when we started this thing.”
From 2001 to 2005, the UFC started off $50 million in the hole, not making any profit until 2006. That’s a far cry from being seen in half a billion homes worldwide today and producing 40-some-odd millionaires within a five-year window.
“We’ve grown this thing to where is today in such a short period of time and it’s only growing more. Boxing has been around for a 100 years, the NFL something like 40 years and we’ve done all this in a fraction of the time.”
These are the passionately defensive musings people have grown accustomed to when dealing with the president—it’s also what intrigues people. White is a gateway persona to the sport as a whole for casual fans.
In addition to his fighters and staff, fans can also have a say through social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter, where White has personally responded numerous times. No question or topic is off limits.
In fact, White’s interactive relationship with fans has spilled over into selfless acts of charity. In 2010, he donated $50,000 to a popular Muay Thai trainer so his seven-month-old daughter could have a lifesaving surgery and around $8,000 to a British family to help pay for their two-year-old's brain tumor treatment.
Throughout his popular video blog series, there have been numerous occasions when White would personally cater to fans in distress over things like lost event tickets, speeding offences caused by a prize giveaway and general grievances about production value at an event.
Due to technological advantages, innovative lines of communication have been created to help MMA fighters—including White—become the most accessible athletes in mainstream sports.
It's no surprise then that fans and pundits alike clamor for the opportunity to pick DW’s brain when it comes to all things pertaining to the sport, because not only is he the authoritative voice of the biggest MMA organization on the planet, he’s also a genuine fight fan with a rich history in boxing and fighter management.
His own opinions and corporate actions coincide with the preservation of MMA’s integrity more often than any other modern-day combat sports promoter. What makes White special is how he’s able to allow his affinity for the sport to be the driving force behind important changes within his company and into arenas around the world.
White has also had an influential hand in important broader changes to how the sport is regulated and improved for fighters’ safety by pushing for unified rules, timed round limits, refined weight classes, added weight classes, higher salaries—hell, even making gloves mandatory.
All of DW’s professional accolades and personal fanfare haven’t been achieved without the predictable bumps in the road.
When you go down the list of MMA’s most notoriously polarizing figures, who jumps out at you?
Surely some would point their fingers at bad boys known for their attitudes and soundbites like Tito Ortiz and Nick Diaz and other naysayers who have dismissed the fighting creditability of characters like Brock Lesnar and Kimbo Slice. But if spectators dig a little further, the sport’s most prolific promoter has been at the center of many heated debates due to his brutally honest tone and his unforgiving confidence in the UFC and the sport of mixed martial arts.
Here comes the most cliché part of the article: love Dana White or hate him, you have to respect him. What he’s been able to accomplish for his company, while catapulting the reputation of an ignored sport to great heights, has been unforeseen in any sport for many years.
We’ve come a long way from the Don King's and the Gary Shaw's. Dana White is not immune to scrutiny for some of the things he has said and done; he’s not perfect and nor should he be seen as such, but at the end of the day, the sport of mixed martial arts wouldn’t be what it is and where it is today without Dana White’s inner fan complimenting his executive status.