There isn’t a more important or influential non-athlete involved with a major sports organization than Dana White. Not only is he the UFC president, but he is also the chief promoter of mixed martial arts, and a defending voice of the sport against all types of criticism.
There are still people out there who believe that MMA is nothing more than a phase in combat sports. White, however, maintains a diligent work ethic to establish the legitimacy of the sport by continuing to fight outside of the Octagon with the media and those that condemn it. It’s his job to make believers out of the non-believers.
Throughout White’s tenure as head of the UFC, he has been determined to make the sport’s leading promotion into a reputable and prosperous organization while simultaneously showing the world why MMA is the most exciting and talent driven sport in the world. College scholarship recipients, Olympic and other high profile athletes make up a great portion of not only the UFC’s roster, but the roster of smaller promotions as well.
White brought in a business mentality to the UFC that launched a worldwide revolution for mixed martial arts. Implementing a professional tone by applying standards that increased its popularity, he took the opposite stance of his UFC predecessors by inviting regulations from the leading athletic commissions.
By adding rules, weight classes, and a judging system, White, along with the Fertitta brothers – Frank III and Lorenzo – were able to transform the fledgling sport into an accepted, recognized, and worldwide phenomenon that we see today.
White – who rubber stamps everything the promotion does – made the UFC and MMA popular through various means such as The Ultimate Fighter reality series and built marketable stars such as current Hall of Famer Chuck Liddell, and a potential future Hall of Famer, Tito Ortiz.
By not only delivering big fights, but delivering clashes that the fans of the sport really wanted to see, viewers began to branch out to other organizations such as the once-prosperous Pride Fighting Championships, Strikeforce, Bellator, and now the newly formed all-women’s MMA promotion, Invicta, to satisfy their MMA cravings.
As a result, the participants in MMA are no longer stereotyped as simply cage fighters, but instead they are respected as the high-caliber athletes that they are. Along with this new found fame came endorsements from various high-profile companies such as Bud Light, Harley Davidson, GameFly, and many more for the individual fighters themselves.
This is evident when you compare the fight shorts worn by athletes at UFC 68 compared with the mega endorsed apparel the combatants wear today. We’ve even reached a time where the crown jewel of sports endorsements, Nike, could be on the verge of sponsoring Jon Jones.
Even though the sport may still be considered too violent for some viewers, to a vast majority, it is viewed as a legitimate sport.
Thanks to White’s efforts, the UFC now broadcasts on Fox after the two parties inked a seven-year-deal, which began in October of 2011. When the deal was announced, it was revealed that the first free live event on Fox would be one of the biggest in the company’s history as Junior dos Santos was set to fight Cain Velasquez for the heavyweight championship of the world.
Since then, the UFC has broadcasted events over several channels, including FX, Fuel, Fox Deportes, and on their own Facebook page. This has contributed to making each MMA event more accessible than most other major professional sports.
The UFC is in no way of being dethroned as the premier MMA promotion. And in the wake of all its success, is a blueprint for other organizations to follow and build their empires and be, in their own way, leading contributors to the world’s fastest growing sport.
Through this, White can proudly stand atop the MMA ladder as the most dedicated businessman in the sport and a hero to fans who didn’t have the same resources but instead, had the same dreams.