Nowadays, the name Dana White is synonymous with the UFC. His charismatic demeanor and tenacious attitude convey a certain idea to the world, and it’s not unreasonable to assume that without Dana’s passion the UFC wouldn’t be the promotion behemoth that it is today.
But it wasn’t always like this.
Early in his career, White was the manager for prominent MMA fighters such as Tito Ortiz and Chuck Liddell. Somehow, he met the guy who owned Semaphore Entertainment Group, which the UFC was a subsidiary of at the time.
When he heard about the plan to sell the UFC, he convinced his friend Lorenzo Fertitta (whom he’d known since he was a kid) to buy the promotion company, which led to Zuffa buying the UFC and Dana White becoming the president of the latter.
The Resurrection of the Brand
But the promotion company was not flourishing. When Dana took over, the previous owner had already squeezed out everything he could from the UFC in order to avoid bankruptcy. Even the official website had been sold to a completely unrelated business under the name of “User Friendly Computers”.
Dana didn’t have a lot to work with: just a brand name and an old octagon (and it cost Zuffa $2 million, mind you).
What had been a struggle at first started slowly becoming a success story. Combining effective advertising, cable pay-per-view broadcasts, and corporate sponsorships, Dana and the company started to bring the name UFC back into the minds of MMA enthusiasts.
The promotion company started growing, expanding to bigger arenas such as MGM Grand Garden Arena and striking a television deal with Fox Sports Net. The icing on the cake was the sold-out UFC 40, which was widely popular and finally brought Dana White the momentum that he’d been waiting for.
But despite the growing awareness of the public, Zuffa was still reporting $34 million dollars in losses. The decided course of action was to focus on gaining popularity through television.
Dana White had launched the reality TV show called ‘The Ultimate Fighter’, which aired on Spike TV and became an overnight success. It featured aspiring fighters competing against each other for the six-figure contract from the UFC. Not only did it draw mainstream attention to the main competition but it also became a snowball of growth.
UFC 52, the first event to occur after the first season of the reality show, demonstrated explosive popularity by doubling the previous pay-per-view record. A whopping number of 300,000 meant that Dana White was on the right course with his TV venture.
Love him or hate him, Dana White is among the most influential people in the MMA world right now. His unprecedented vision has led to the MMA surpassing such prominent sports as boxing and wrestling in widespread appeal, but we think that the craziest, most groundbreaking endeavors are still ahead of him – and us, too.
Do you like or dislike Dana White? And why? Write us in the comments.
Also, you can read Dana White’s ‘Fight Island’ Explained.