Dana White vs The Mass Media

Ryan Thomas

Image by Conor Napier

Last week Dana White spoke with The Mass Media about the UFC’s success as a growing sport in the national spotlight. UFC 75 was a huge success and UFC 76 Knock Out was as good as it gets across the pond in London’s O2 Dome. This week, we ask Dana about marketing his colossal company and where he expects the UFC to prosper in the future. We also get to ask him about his experience here at UMass Boston, how he got into mixed martial arts in the first place and how he became so successful in his endeavors. Call it the lighter side of Dana White, his back-story if you will. But when you get down to the nitty-gritty of it, he’s still just a badass who has fun with what he does.

Q. In an interview with the Baltimore Sun in January of this year, you said, “[2006] was an incredible year, but you ain’t seen nothing yet. Wait ’til you see 2007. We’re going to blow everybody’s mind again in 2007.” Do you feel like you have blown everyone’s minds, and if so, how exactly?

A. “Well we bought PRIDE this year. We brought most of the big superstars from there over to here which is gunna set up a ton of mega fights for the end of 2007, beginning of 2008. We purchased the WC world extreme cage fighting and we just did a three-year deal with Comcast and with Versus network who’s trying to compete with ESPN. ESPN has started covering us regularly this year, including all of our weigh-ins live, even the ones out of country.”

Q. Who do you believe to be the most marketable fighter in the UFC right now, and why?

A. “Well the most famous fighter in the UFC right now has to be Chuck Liddell. Why? Because he’s a bad motherfucker. He’ll fight anybody, anywhere, any time and he likes to knock people out and people like to see knock outs. Marketable? Rampage Jackson is very marketable; he’s aggressive. Again, he’s a guy who likes to finish fights and he’s got a great personality outside the Octagon. There are a lot of guys.

“I’ve got a whole list of guys who are very marketable. They’re all different. I got different guys in different ways. Rampage Jackson is very marketable for all the reasons I said, Randy Couture, because he’s 44 years old; he keeps beating the odds, and keeps beating younger, faster, stronger guys. That makes him very marketable. Forrest Griffin, with his personality and his style of fighting is very marketable. The great thing is, if I said I had one really marketable guy, I don’t I have a whole roster of very marketable guys.”

Q. The UFC has had limited exposure on ESPN to this point in its existence. Do you envision the UFC getting national exposure on a network such as ESPN in the future?

A. “Yea no doubt about it. You remember how we started this interview? You can take that quote, and use it again for 2008. ”

Q. How did you get into MMA in the first place, and what drew you to this genre of fighting when you were younger?

A. “Well I wasn’t. When I was younger I was into martial arts. I was a big Bruce Lee fan. Bruce Lee and Muhammad Ali were my two heroes growing up and I was really a big boxing fan. I didn’t get into MMA ’til one day me and my partner Frank were at The Hard Rock Hotel and Casino here in Las Vegas and we saw this dude John Lewis, who had fought in the UFC before. My partner Frank said “I always wanted to learn ground fighting” and I said I had too and I knew John so we went and we talked to him and we set up an appointment to grapple with him on Monday. He came, we started jujitsu; and Lorenzo, my other buddy came with me and we were blown away by it. We became addicted to it and we started doing it three, four times a week and fell in love with the sport. We started to meet some of the guys; that’s how I met Chuck and Tito and that’s really how it all got started.”

Q. I understand that for a two-year period, you managed a boxing program for inner-city children here in Boston. Could you tell me a little bit about that program, what you did there, why you got into it specifically and what affect it had on your life?

A. “In South Boston, my partner was Peter Welsch. He just actually opened a new gym over in Southie right now for mixed martial arts. We used to bring kids in off the street after school to box instead of, you know. And that’s when South Boston was still pretty segregated. We used to bring kids in from all over Boston, not just Southie, to come in and box and get out their aggressions and get off the street; and try to be a positive influence in their life.

“It was awesome; I met a lot of good kids and had a lot of fun doing it. It was a really, really good learning experience for me. It was a huge part of my life. It helped me get here, it really did. It helped me as much as it helped them. You see more of that on the east coast than on the west coast. There are a lot of guys back there who donate their time and who really help try and get kids off the streets.”

Q. Having a wife and three children is enough work as is. But add to that being the president of the most popular MMA sports association in the world, and that’s a pretty full platter. How do you balance everything in your life?

A. “I don’t know man, sometimes I don’t, and it’s the hardest thing. It’s the hardest thing to do in business, to have that balance in your life. You know, you should spend time with your family, you have a lot of work to do, you travel. Its hard, you know, it’s never perfect, and there’s a lot of sacrifices. I don’t know, I do the best I can. I wouldn’t say I’m perfect at it, on any area. I’m not perfect at home, I’m not perfect at the office, or at all the other areas but I do the best I can.”

Q. You attended the University of Massachusetts-Boston for two years when you were younger. What was life like for you there?

A. “Here’s the thing with me. I don’t know how many questions you want to ask me about school because I was never a big school guy. I hated school, I hated high school, I went to college because I felt like you have to go college. Nobody can do anything these days without a college education. A high school diploma doesn’t cut it anymore.

“I said to myself I’m gunna go to school, I’m gunna get a degree. I wanted to get a degree in business so I went to UMass for a semester and I said fuck this. I can’t do this man, I hate school. I knew what I wanted to do. I think the biggest problem with young people is that a lot of young people don’t know what they want to do. Even when they go to college they’re like ‘yea, I’m a Political Science major,’ and then you talk to them a month later and they’re like ‘oh, I’m a Economics major.’ You know, they keep changing because they don’t know what they want to do. A lot of kids go to college because their parents say ‘you’re gunna go to college and were gunna pay for it.’ They say ‘all right, I’ll go over there and hang out for four years and figure out what I want to do.’

“The lucky thing for me was I always knew exactly what I wanted to do. There was never any question. So for what I wanted to do I didn’t really have to go to college. And I’ve told the story a million times.

“I was working at the Boston Harbor Hotel and I was a bar man over there and I was making 50, 60 thousand a year and I was 19 years old. I walked out the door one day, to one of my buddies who was a doorman there, someone who I’m still friends with today and I said ‘fuck this shit man, I’m done. I’m not doing this anymore man I’m done I cant stand it. He was like ‘your crazy, you’re 19, you’re making 50 or 60 a year’ and I said ‘I’ll tell you what: everyday I get in my fucking car and drive here and I’m miserable. I hate this job, I can’t do this anymore.’ I said ‘I’m gunna do the boxing, man, and I don’t care if I don’t make a fucking dime doing it, I’m gunna be happy driving to work everyday.’ That was what I did and it all worked out.”

Q. What advice would you give to the students here at UMass as they strive for their goals and try to become as successful as possible in their endeavors?

A. “Ill tell you exactly. Whether you’re a student at UMass or you’re working construction, the formula’s the same for everybody. Find out exactly what you want to do man. Find that one thing that you would do for free, that you would do for free everyday because it makes you that happy: you’re that passionate about it and you’re that happy about it and that’s what you should do for a living. And figure out how to make money off of it.”

Q. Where do you think the UFC fits in the national sports scene, and where do you see its future?

A. “I can tell you right now, as far as ratings and things like that go we’re already the number two sport in the country. Were number two to the NFL. The NFL’s the only thing that beats us in ratings, in the male demo 18-34 and that isn’t too bad to be 2nd to the NFL. There’s nothing bigger than the NFL man. I don’t care if you don’t watch one football game, everyone watches the Super Bowl.”

Q. Bill Goldberg recently made a statement comparing you to Vince McMahon. He said that both McMahon and you are trying to monopolize your respective sports. What do you have to say about that?

A. “Tell Goldberg to quit fucking crying. Just because I do it bigger and better than everyone else does, doesn’t mean I’m trying to monopolize. This isn’t a monopoly. Everyone who can rub two nickels together is getting into this sport. Mark Cuban just jumped in. I’ll tell you what, there have been other people who have tried to compete with Vince and they couldn’t. there’s a big difference. They couldn’t compete with Vince because Vince would beat their ass every time someone tried to jump into his arena. And I’m doing the same fucking thing. If he’s saying that about me; thank you then, I look at that as a compliment.”

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