White’s Way or the Highway

Written by Tom Ngo
June 6th, 2008

Many consider UFC President Dana White as the modern day Don King.  What he has been able to do with the popularity of Mixed Martial Arts, more specifically the UFC, in the United States has been nothing short of spectacular. Though White has experienced great successes, there has also been no shortage of carnage along the way.

Eight years ago when White convinced his long time friend Frank Fratetta and his brother Lorenzo to invest $40 Million of their own money into a fledgling sport and company, many thought that they had lost their minds. The UFC was no longer on Pay-Per-Views and were only sanctioned in a hand full of states. Without television exposure, the sport quickly sank into the abyss.

My, how times have changed. To much of White’s credit, he has now made Mixed Martial Arts the fastest growing sport in the US, with the UFC’s brand being synonymous with the sport.

Along the way he has made some shrewd business decisions, most which have benefited the company’s growth and popularity. In 2003, White brilliantly struck a deal with Spike TV to produce the hit reality show, The Ultimate Fighter, which has spearheaded MMA’s acceptance into the mainstream.

The UFC now commands millions of dollars in gate ticket sales, and makes ten times more with PPV purchases.

With that type of revenue generation, it was only a matter of time before the fighters started demanding larger paydays, especially since they are the ones that the fans are coming to see. Fighters are starting to demand to be respected properly, and by “respected” they mean PAID.

Former UFC Light Heavyweight champion Tito Ortiz has been the most outspoken about the level of respect that he has received from White, and is set to part ways with him and the MMA powerhouse. 

“No, I’m not going back to the UFC. I don’t want to,” stated Ortiz. “It’s really hard to say, but the President (White), the way he treats me, I can’t continue on with them. He’s a monster and I’m going to go elsewhere where they respect me.”

Ortiz certainly isn’t the only one speaking out. Prior to what turned out to be his last fight for the organization, former UFC Heavyweight champion Tim Sylvia told White about re-signing that, “When I win tonight, we’re going to break open the bank.”

Unfortunately for Sylvia he lost the bout, and with one fight still remaining on his current contract, White decided to let the former champ go. Figuring that the two-time former champ was not worth the added money it would cost to keep him.

“See, this is the one part of the business I f******* hate,” an irritated White told Rolling Stone. “Everybody  wants more money, they want it now.  And then all these fighters are like, ‘We’re the superstars, not the UFC! It should all be about us.’  You dumb motherf*****s,” “You don’t know what you’re f******* with. I’m a promoter.”

Much has been made about another former UFC champion’s departure from the organization, with court battles still pending. Randy Couture left the UFC last year as the reigning UFC Heavyweight champion over many issues, the primary one being the lack of “respect” he received from UFC management.

The soon to be 45 year old Courture feels that there is only one more fight that he would like to take on to validate his illustrious career before he retires, again. Current # 1 undisputed  heavyweight Fedor Emelianenko was the most coveted prize on the market and many organizations threw everything at the fighter to get him to join their promotion, including the UFC.

Many thought that the effort would appease Couture, but when the champion discovered that Emelianenko was being offered a reported $1 million per fight for 4 fights, Courture felt “disrepected” by White and the UFC.

He wondered how the UFC could throw that much money at a fighter that has done nothing for their organization, while Couture dedicated much of his professional career to be the face of the organization.

It has been a year since Couture and White had their falling out and Couture hasn’t set foot in the Octagon since, which seems to be just fine with White. White has managed to keep the organization skyrocketing forward, seeminly using the Couture debacle to his advantage.

“I don’t regret anything that I have said or done, because everything has gotten me right where I am,” stated a confident White.

White will never apologize for being who he is. Never again will the US be exposed to the President of a multimillion dollar company that drops more four letter words than a drunken sailor. And at this critical stage in the UFC’s development, White knows that tough decisions have to be made, and he doesn’t mind looking like the bad guy.

“I love life. And I love what I do. But this is the way it goes,” said White.

But don’t think for a second that even the modern day Don King isn’t vulnerable and frustrated himself. Not too many people have successfully taken a company from the ground up and made it internationally popular.

“I don’t know how much longer I can take it, I just don’t know,” expressed an exhausted White.

Hopefully his endurance will be better than what he expects out of his champions in a 5Round fight, because like him, his style or his arrogance or not, he is going to do it his way.

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