It’s safe to say that the UFC would be nothing without Dana White.
The outspoken boss built the company from the ground up, crafting it into the juggernaut that it is today.
The UFC has become one of the most influential organisations in sport and with White remaining as determined as ever, looks destined to grow from strength to strength.
It’s taken a lot of blood, sweat and tears for the company to get to where they are today.
So, with that in mind, we decided to take a look at how White went about building a powerhouse in the combat sporting world.
Thanks to an intriguing Twitter thread from Joe Pompliano, we can follow an in-depth timeline outlining how White sculpted the company.
How Dana White built the UFC
As a 19-year-old two-time college drop out, White left a steady, salaried job at a casino in Boston, telling a close friend he was going to get into the fight business.
After cold-calling local boxing legend Peter Welch and begging him to teach him everything he knows about the fight business, White spent three years under Welch’s tutelage. In all that time, he didn’t earn a cent.
The story then took a wild turn when White fell victim to threats from Whitey Bulger and the Irish Mob after failing to honour a $2,500 debt. Unable to pay the money back, White fled, booking a one way ticket to Las Vegas.
It was in Sin City that White would discover MMA – it was love at first sight.
White would go on to manage fighters like Tito Ortiz and Chick Lidell but he soon realised that MMA fighters made little to no money at all.
He decided that something had to change for the sport and began negotiations with former UFC owner, Bob Meyrowitz.
After Meyrowitz declared: “There is no more money, I don’t even know if I have enough money to put on one more event”, White sensed an opportunity and immediately called up Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta.
Within weeks, White and the Fertitta brothers had tabled a $2 million offer for the company that was in a very bad way.
To avoid bankruptcy, the UFC had already sold off all of its assets as well as its website domain meaning White and his partners would have to start from scratch with just the ‘UFC’ name.
As part of the deal, the Fertitta brothers agreed to fund the $2 million fee while White was named president of the operation and given a 9% equity stake.
With a foot in the door and partners with cash to burn, White got right down to work.
Over the next 15-years White built the UFC, brick by brick, day by day.
His unrivalled work ethic and focus on popularising the concept of caged fighting and attracting fighters with personality worked an absolute treat and the world took notice.
In 2016, the UFC was flying, generating $600 million in revenue and rapidly becoming one of the most popular brands in sport.
With the company soaring, Ari Emanuel’s WWE-IMG came calling, tabling a whopping $4 billion bid for the organisation.
They accepted without hesitation. The Fertitta brothers made billions in the deal while White pocketed a cool $360 million.
Now, White is worth an incredible $500 million and looks more determined than ever to grow the UFC.
We just hope he finally paid those Irish mobsters back.