Dana White: 8 Reasons the UFC President Is the Best Businessman in Sports

Nick Caron@@nicholascaronAnalyst INovember 14, 2011

Dana White: 8 Reasons the UFC President Is the Best Businessman in Sports

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    Saturday night’s UFC on FOX event was one of the biggest feats in the history of the organization and its President, Dana White.

    It has been years since the UFC has found its way onto network television and it has never received anywhere near the amount of publicity and support that it did from FOX over the past few weeks and months.

    White, a controversial but very up-front and honest businessman, has begun his ascent up the rankings of the best decision-makers in major sports today.

    He may not currently have the notoriety that some of the others from the MLB, NBA and NFL have, but it is beginning to look more like he may very well be the best businessman of them all. 

Took over a Losing Product

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    Who would have thought that the “UFC” product that we saw back in November 1993 at UFC 1 would end up one day becoming mainstream enough that it sat in the prime time slot on a Saturday night on one of the largest networks in the world?

    Well, one man had that vision, and his name is Dana White.

    White first functioned as a manager for fighters, but saw the opportunity to purchase the company from its former owners, the Semaphore Entertainment Group, back in 2001.

    The UFC itself was a failing business that looked like it was headed for eventual bankruptcy and simply was not catching on whatsoever with the mainstream audience.

    Dana attached himself with his childhood friends and Las Vegas millionaires Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta, who together purchased the company under the name “Zuffa;” leaving Dana as a 9 percent owner of what would eventually become one of the largest sports organizations in the world.

    Needless to say, Dana and the Fertittas made a brilliant choice.

Dominance over the Competition

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    Like many of the other organizations in the world of sports today, the UFC has established itself as the clear, unrivaled, top organization in their given area.

    Dana White is largely to credit for this as he has been the driving force behind many of the UFC’s innovations that have led to it becoming the “brand name” for MMA, including using the phrase “ultimate fighting” to describe the sport as opposed to “mixed martial arts.”

    This type of brilliance can only really be compared to the pro wrestling world, where the WWE’s Vince McMahon helped brand “WWF wrestling” as a household name.

    The UFC has crushed any and all competition that has attempted to go head-to-head with it and really the only organizations that remain are ones which are either brand new or re-created, or ones that have not really attempted to steal any of the UFC’s market share, such as Bellator.

Worked Diligently to Get MMA Sanctioned

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    One big hurdle that is often overlooked is that when Dana and the Fertitta brothers took over the UFC, it was still largely viewed as being way too barbaric and crazy to put in front of most audiences.

    Unlike the other major sports in America today, Zuffa needed to convince people that its product was not only entertaining, but that it was also safe.

    Imagine seeing what we currently see in New York in the way of sanctioning problems happening across the entire country. That’s pretty much what Zuffa had to deal with.

    But through their own hard work and determination, Zuffa was able to secure its first sanctioned MMA event in the state of Nevada, UFC 33, which also marked the promotion’s long-awaited return to pay-per-view. Since that night, we have seen the sport expand to almost every state.

    This was no small task and should not be forgotten. 

Ability to Create New Stars

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    As great as things currently are in the Ultimate Fighting Championship, it’s hard to believe that the organization has gone through its ups and downs in the way of roster management throughout its existence.

    It wasn’t always that Dana had the best of the best to choose from, sniping the talent from the other competing organizations at his own will, using the “UFC” name to entice fighters to work for less money than they might have received fighting in rival promotions. No, there were actually times when things were looking pretty bleak in certain divisions.

    However one thing that White and the people around him have been able to do over time is create new stars out of fighters who might otherwise not really be taken seriously as the top competitor in their weight class.

    One great example of this happened during the days of the Pride-versus-UFC rivalries when fans were trying to choose which promotion had better fighters.

    Everyone had their own opinion, but if we look back on it, the discrepancy between the top-level heavyweights in Pride and the heavyweights in the UFC was night and day.

    While the UFC was promoting a trilogy between Andrei Arlovski and Tim Sylvia, Pride was busy putting on gigantic heavyweight fights between the likes of Mirko Cro Cop and Fedor Emelianenko in their primes.

    Yet somehow Dana and the UFC were able to convince many fans that their heavyweights were on the level of Pride, many people were even convinced that Sylvia and Arlovski would run through the Pride heavyweight division.

Disciplinary Actions

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    Other organizations have seen some serious problems with their athletes having problems off the field leading to suspensions, fines and various other forms of punishment.

    Not surprisingly given the nature of combat sports, the UFC has also had its fair share of off-the-field incidents with its fighters.

    However, the big difference is the way that these situations have been handled.

    While the NFL (in particularly) beats around the bush, Dana White has been wide open and harsh with his disciplinary actions.

    When Paul Daley landed a late punch on Josh Koscheck after their fight, White permanently booted him from the company. Case closed. No discussions.

    When Nick Diaz repeatedly missed press conferences and cost the UFC a bunch of money in unused traveling expenses, Dana removed him from the main event at UFC 137 against Georges St-Pierre.

    Better yet, the UFC fighters who have been disciplined have almost always avoided repeat offenses; something the NFL and other sports organizations haven’t been able to replicate.

He Gives Fans the Fights They Want to See

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    It seems like there have always been fights and/or games in other sports which have been avoided for various reasons.

    Whether it’s protecting a champion or a major team/program, limiting expenses or whatever other ridiculous reason they can come up with, few other sports organizations can claim that they have given the fans what they want more than the UFC does.

    With dream fights like Alistair Overeem vs. Brock Lesnar, Georges St-Pierre vs. Nick Diaz and Anderson Silva vs. Chael Sonnen II on the horizon, plus the historical bouts including Liddell vs. Ortiz, Shamrock vs. Ortiz, Liddell vs. Wanderlei Silva and Lesnar vs. Mir II; the UFC has always delivered.

    We are currently awaiting a pound-for-pound fight between Anderson Silva and Georges St-Pierre, but the reality is that Dana White has done practically everything in his power to make that one happen.

    It’s just that the fighters don’t seem to be quite as interested in providing that fight to the fans as White himself is.

    Nevertheless, other than that one bout, there really haven’t been many “misses” and White certainly deserves quite a bit of credit for that.

Worldwide Exposure

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    It would be hard to blame the UFC for choosing to expand its horizons almost solely within the confines of America’s borders.

    However, given their success in pay-per-view sales and other forms of money-making adventures overseas, the UFC has taken a real interest in growing its brand all across the globe.

    The NFL and other sports have toyed a bit with setting up games outside of America, but none has expanded itself to be anything like what the UFC has in recent years and particularly in recent months.

    Since the start of 2009, the UFC has held major events in Ireland, Germany, England, Australia, United Arab Emirates, Canada and Brazil. They are also set to make their return to Japan on Feb. 26 for UFC 144.

    This global takeover has been a huge step in the right direction for the UFC, as they are not only establishing themselves in new markets, but they are also growing the sport as a whole by getting a whole new group of young athletes interested in competing in MMA.

    This has been beneficial in the short-term, but its long-term impacts might not be noticed until a decade or more from now when we can really see how each country has seen the sport grow since the UFC decided to add their country to the schedule. 

Fan Interaction

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    Certain sports franchises and especially individual athletes pride themselves on being very available for their fans. This helps push them into being major fan-favorites within their sport.

    While we have seen this be successful for athletes in other sports, the UFC has taken it to a whole new level with its unbelievable amount of fan interaction.

    It starts with the “fan expos” that the UFC puts on before major events where they grant everyday citizens access to not only some of coolest sponsor booths and new media, but also direct access to many of the fighters themselves.

    We’re not just talking lower-named fighters, either. We’re talking top-level fighters who would be otherwise almost practically unattainable in other sports.

    Can you imagine showing up at a Yankees baseball game and trying to get Alex Rodriguez’s autograph? Good luck!

    But try doing the same thing to talk to UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones and you might have a completely different result... and if that doesn’t work, you can always try getting on contact with him on his verified Twitter account.

    He’s typically active on there just about every day and is regularly going back-and-forth with his fans and even some of his critics.

    The UFC has gone out of its way to promote the usage of various social media websites, particularly Twitter, to help promote the sport and especially the individual fighters themselves.

    The promotion has even offered substantial cash bonuses to the fighters who have made the best use of those tools over a given time period.

    How long do you think it’ll be before Roger Goodell gives Chris Johnson a “Best Tweet of the Year” award? Don’t hold your breath.

    The UFC is incredibly innovative when it comes to promoting themselves and the way that they have used their fighters’ names and fame to promote the company itself is nothing short of brilliant.

    It might cost the UFC some money in order to give out these large bonuses, but they easily make up for it in the extra added attention and revenue created by the fighters locating new fans via Twitter and other forms of social media.

    At the end of the day, MMA and the UFC only exist because of the demand created by people who enjoy the sport. Dana White understands this and that’s why he is always giving back to the fans.

    Now if only the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL and other major sports would follow suit... 


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