||07-11-2009 02:29 AM
Dana White is worth 200 million?!
Big article on UFC and Dana, the history and where they're going. They say the UFC is worth 1 billion and Dana White is worth $200 million. No doubt, the fighters' compensation is *Dana expletive* garbage!
UFC's White plays to win at all costs
by Alex Marvez
LAS VEGAS - Roughly 400 mug shots of UFC competitors hang on a wall at company headquarters. Many of the faces are smashed and lacerated. Defeat is conveyed in deadened, blackened eyes.
Their expressions stand in stark contrast to that of the cantankerous, moon-faced man whose swank second-story office sits across the hall. Dana White is unbloodied, unabashed and unbeaten in the mixed martial arts world.
This is an empire of his own creation. His booming cultural and financial enterprise is set to peak with Saturday night's UFC 100 pay-per-view card.
"Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, this is what I do," White growled, dismissing the Donald Trumps and Mark Cubans who have tried to take his MMA crown with competing promotions.
"This is my business. How the f*** are you going to come in and beat me?"
So far, none have.
Spend 45 minutes with White like I did earlier this week and it becomes clear how he willed his way to prosperity. It's especially sweet considering the UFC is among the hottest shows in what is still Frank Sinatra's town. White did it his way.
With his trademark T-shirts and ripped designer jeans, White doesn't look much different than the brawlers he hypes. He is a micromanager with a relentless work ethic. White mercilessly attacks his competitors and enemies — some real, others imagined. He sells the UFC with obscenity-filled pitches that corporate America could never embrace. White cashed in along the way, too. He is now worth $200 million, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Yet on the eve of his company's centennial event, White is not in a reflective mood.
"We have so much work to do it's insane," said White, who's busy opening new markets in Mexico, China and Europe.
He takes a deep, weary breath. No one said global domination was going to be easy.
In 2001, White convinced two childhood friends — Las Vegas casino magnates Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta — to purchase UFC for $2 million. UFC is now worth $1 billion-plus, according to media reports. But those numbers don't reflect how far the company has come.
A pay-per-view smash in the mid-1990s, UFC quickly faded after Arizona Sen. John McCain decried its anything-goes brand of MMA as "human cockfighting." Most states wouldn't sanction cards (that has since changed with the adaptation of tighter fight rules). Television networks and major advertisers wouldn't touch it. By early this decade, UFC was on life support.
White — a former boxing manager, aerobics instructor and hotel bellhop — began chasing the same "only in America" dream that fueled fellow huckster Don King. He tried selling advertisers and sponsors on UFC's viability while also supervising its stable of fighters. White recalls a typical day as "jumping on a commercial flight, waking up in Boston, spending the day in Atlanta and going to bed in Chicago."
Even a profitable 2002 grudge match between Ken Shamrock and Tito Ortiz couldn't stop the bleeding. In 2004, Lorenzo Fertitta asked White to sell. UFC was $44 million in the red.
"'I can't do this anymore,'" Fertitta told White. "'See what you can get on the street for this thing.'"
Instead, White struck a deal with Spike TV for a reality-based series. The Ultimate Fighter's first season in 2005 was done on a barter deal for advertising.
"Nobody would sponsor it," White recalled. But the groundwork was laid for future success.
With White as the host, The Ultimate Fighter drew the coveted 18-to-34 year old demographic thanks to a format that owed much to MTV's Real World. Established fighters trained aspiring ones who lived in the same house while competing for a UFC contract. Ratings boomed, establishing UFC as a cable television staple.
Meanwhile, the Ortiz-Shamrock feud still had life. As that rivalry faded, other fighters like Chuck Liddell and Randy Couture turned into pay-per-view draws. The Ultimate Fighter became a near-perfect way to market new fighters and feuds.
UFC has since eclipsed pro wrestling and boxing as an annual pay-per-view draw, according to industry sources. White estimates at least one million buys at $44.99 apiece for UFC 100 and boasts the show will air in 50 other countries. The live crowd at Mandalay Bay will be filled with UFC-themed clothing now worn as commonly by young adults as sports jerseys.
"Right now, it's growing faster than it ever has before," White said. "This thing is a virus. We're just spreading the virus."
At the same time, White may be spreading himself too thin.
The possibility of burnout can't be dismissed. White's PDA is constantly buzzing. Our interview was interrupted by a call from heavyweight Mirko Cro Cop, with whom he recently had a falling out.
"That's not going to be a pleasant conversation," White said after sending Cro Cop to his voice mail.
White couldn't remember the last time he went on vacation nor is one planned. When he does step back, White said he will hit the beach in California with his wife and three children but still spend most of the time on his cell phone.
"When you own a business like this, there are no days off," said White, who turns 40 on July 28. "You turn off the phone for a few days, bad s*** can happen. You have to be on top of that every second of every day — and I am."
On Wednesday — a typical 18-hour workday — an assistant had to remind White to eat lunch. He oversees a staff of more than 500 employees and fighters (including sister promotion World Extreme Cagefighting). He hypes UFC shows on television and his video blog. White pays so much attention to detail that he recently rejected a commercial trailer for the new Brad Pitt movie Inglorious Basterds because it wasn't sensational enough.
The breakneck pace has led to errors. One of them was booking UFC 100 in a 12,000-seat arena when it could have easily sold out a much larger venue.
"We really screwed this thing up," White said. "That's a perfect example of some of the mistakes we make going 100 miles per hour. We're working on UFC 92 (in December 2008) when we're planning UFC 100."
There's also this: As much as White means to UFC, he might be what keeps the company from further mainstream acceptance.
The bombastic verbal attacks toward those he dislikes don't sit well outside the rough-and-tumble fight game. The media lambasted White in April after his vicious assault of a female MMA reporter who wrote a story he claims is inaccurate. For three minutes on his video blog, White cussed up a storm while slurring women and homosexuals. The tirade angered UFC sponsors and gave additional fodder to those who believe the sport encourages abusive behavior. White apologized for his choice of words but never said he was sorry to the reporter.
"I snapped and got in trouble with the gay community," White said. "They were upset with me. I'm man enough to step up and say that was wrong.
"I've calmed down a lot in the past five, 10 years but I'm going to have my moments. I can't sit here and tell you I'm never going to blow up like that again. It will happen again. I can guarantee that."
Asked how such an explosion would affect the company, White coolly said, "We'll find out."
White points out that the incident hasn't deterred interest in UFC 100. In the big picture, White may not even need worry about political correctness.
"What happens when television goes to the Internet and everybody on the planet has the ability to buy a fight through the computer?" White said. "What is that number (of orders)? When you try to wrap your brain around all the things that are possible, it f****** hurts. I don't think there's another business on earth that has the possibilities this one does."
Still, White claims he "couldn't care less" about his legacy.
"The fighters are the ones who are going to be remembered," White said. "Who was the champion? Who was the best? The only thing that matters to me is when I'm in that (coffin), my kids get up and say he was a good dad. That's your legacy."
White says he'll know when to retire — just as soon as UFC gains widespread acceptance as a legitimate sport.
"I battle about this with my wife all the time," White said. "She says, 'everybody thinks you could never in a million years get away from the action of this.' I said, 'Trust me when I f****** tell you, I could walk away in a f****** second and be happy.'
"I know what my end game is. ... You guys are just going to have to see."