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Dana White: 'Nobody wants this [expletive] job'

By now you'd think Dana White was over this stuff, but the truth is if he ever was, if critics big or small didn't still agitate and motivate, then he wouldn't be Dana White at all.

And if there's no Dana White, is there an Ultimate Fighting Championship that went from a bumbling $2 million organization to an estimated $1 billion company in eight years, grows its fan base by the day or is about to celebrate its 100th show July 11 in Las Vegas?

Dana White is Dana White. Always has been; probably always will be. He acts unlike any other president of a major sports organization.

He swears like a [expletive] sailor, never wears a tie and when people said he shouldn't be running the UFC back in the day, he told them, "[expletive] you."

When they said he was doing it all wrong, he said, "[expletive] you."

And now, when ESPN on its "E:60" program suggested that his brash style might not be right for continued growth, well, you can imagine the response.

"The whole ESPN thing, 'Can the UFC go where it needs to go with Dana White?' Shut the [expletive] up. Who's going to do it? I'm the one who's been doing it. Now someone else is going to come in and take things over?"

By White's standards, that's a tame response. He didn't even rant on his video blog about it. Maybe he's mellowing after all.

In the past he's gone crazier. Often it's against "media" targets, rival promoters or fighters who aren't even worth responding in the first place. And that doesn't count anonymous message board posters.

"Instead of being one of these guys that ignores everything that is being said, sometimes you get on my nerves and sometimes you get me to the point where I blow," White said.

Roger Goodell or Bud Selig he's not.

Then again, neither of those guys is White. And it's unlikely either of them would have turned the UFC into what it is today.


There's a theory that White was lucky to be the right man at the right time for mixed martial arts because the sport was set to blow up, no matter who was running it.

More accurately, White remains the only guy at any time to make this sport work on a major level in America. That he did it without a formal education and a style more suited for a street fight than a boardroom is probably the secret to the success.

"It took somebody like Dana who's got street smarts, who doesn't pull punches, who speaks his mind, who never [expletive], to do this," Lorenzo Fertitta, one of UFC's co-owners, told Yahoo! Sports' Kevin Iole. "At the end of the day, if we had taken a Harvard MBA and hired him in 2001 to run this company, we'd probably be bankrupt right now. There are so many things that are unconventional about this business. This isn't something you can read about and learn in a textbook. I truly believe that Dana was put on the Earth to run the UFC."

White, 39, infuriates some fans, although it is probably just a vocal minority. Most appreciate the product he's delivered. That he's a huge star in his own right, though, rankles some. Strangely, his harshest critics are generally hardcore fans you'd think would appreciate his unquestioned dedication to the sport and ability to take it from back alleys to mainstream.

White doesn't deny he's brash, at times cocky and always impatient. He also notes he's far from perfect. He laughs about it though. He's true to himself and that's what it took.

So he battled with more than a few fighters, agents, writers, promoters and politicians?

This is cage fighting, after all. Are you supposed to be polite when you're kicking down doors to open up worlds?


"Smart guys with a lot of money are out there trying to make this work and they aren't," White said, laughing that a lot of rich, learned people have failed where a guy whose formal education consists of dropping out before completing one semester at UMass-Boston and doing a brief stint at a community college.

"This wasn't a conventional business and I didn't go by the business school books on how this should be built."

He looks back on his first days with the UFC. It was just White and a woman who worked for him in the gym business in Vegas. He was fresh off stints as a boxercise instructor, hotel bell hop and small boxing gym owner.

Brothers Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta were two of White's high school friends whose family owned a number of businesses, including Station Casinos. They had taken the gamble on the UFC, which lacked regulation (in most states), publicity or profitability, and on White, who lacked any known qualifications. Lorenzo saw "great instincts" and a deep hunger.

They started with UFC 30 and planned on running five shows a year. It drew a crowd of 3,000 to an Atlantic City casino, and since mixed martial arts was banned by nearly all cable pay-per-view outlets, there was little revenue coming from there.

"We were the red-headed stepchild of the Fertitta's businesses," White said. "Everybody hated that I talked them into buying this thing. It was going to lose all this money. This model would never work. They hated us.

"Now every one of them wishes they had put some money into it."

Who can blame him for laughing? UFC 100 – with three main events, including two title fights – is expected to do an estimated 1.3 million pay-per-view buys, a company record. The 12,000-seat Mandalay Bay Events Center sold out in one day. The online secondary market is asking up to $10,000 for an octagon-side ticket.

From the start White saw the UFC as something others didn't. They saw a more gruesome form of boxing, he saw a fledgling sports league, something that could be run more like the WWE, or even better, the NFL or NBA.

By getting the fighters to work under the company's umbrella and believe in the benefits of cooperation and long-term growth, he's delivered a monthly dose of mega-fights, a top reality show and hours of quality programming for basic cable audiences.

It hasn't been easy and it hasn't been without headaches. It has worked though, even if critics have harped on nearly every decision. Consider the UFC making fighters agree to merchandising deals (which include video games and action figures), something that would never wash in boxing.

The reaction and accusations were intense and, White mocks, completely ignorant.

"We've created a business where 15 years from now Chuck Liddell can still be making money on royalty checks," White said.

"I can tell you this right now; Leon Spinks isn't collecting any checks right now. He's not collecting royalties because he once boxed on a Don King or a Bob Arum card."


Still White can't get the ESPN thing out of his head. The show aired in May. He's still talking about it in July. It was mostly a throw-away line in a positive piece but the theory was that while White got the sport to this level perhaps the UFC needs a more polished suit, one of those Harvard MBA's, to take it to the next level.

A cussing, brawling, fighting CEO can only do so much; even if he's done more than anyone imagined.

"Idiotic," he said. "Nobody wants this [expletive] job, believe me. You better love this job to do it."

He sighs and pauses for a second. He's been beating the critics for nearly a decade, why would one more matter now?

"Here's what I believe," he said. "I'm the guy with the road map. I'm the guy who knows where I want to go with this thing. I know what my end game is. I know where it is.

"When this thing is a sport, all over the entire world, and you can take the UFC to any city in any country, just like soccer, then I did it. I did what I set out to do. That's why I was put on this planet. That's my job, my destiny, whatever the [expletive] you want to call it."

Here comes Dana White with UFC 100 … and counting.

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