Dana White is far from your traditional company president. Unlike many of the major promoters in boxing, White is a figure that can readily identify with the competitors under his wing, because he’s much closer to them in age.
White took the reins at the UFC at the age of 32. And to say he brings a youthful exuberance to his position would be to vastly understate the facts.
Born in Manchester, Conn., White grew up in a few different locales, including Boston, Las Vegas and Maine. He attended the University of Massachusetts-Boston, but got a better education from the school of hard knocks. White got involved with boxing early on, and in fact started a boxing program for inner-city youth in Boston. back in Las Vegas he eventually owned and operated three gyms under the banner of Dana White Enterprises. He got involved with what might be termed white-collar boxing, conducting Boxercise classes for the public. He also trained a number of boxers, including a notable light heavyweight named Derrick Harmon.
Through this experience White grew to recognize that boxing could be a messy business and that it wasn’t necessarily a growth industry. This knowledge would serve him well in future endeavors.
One day White happened upon a practitioner of mixed martial arts, who wound up giving him some lessons. This gave White a much greater appreciation for what was involved in this sport that had been castigated by media, regulators and legislators alike. White took a very special interest in MMA, seeing it as something that had more long-term potential, at least for him, than boxing did, and became a manager of some UFC fighters, including Tito Ortiz and Chuck Liddell, both of whom would become UFC champions.
Through this kind of up-close exposure to the sport, White knew what was going on with the UFC, which at the time was owned by Bob Meyrowitz, and could sense that unless the organization could be rescued somehow, it risked sinking into the abyss. White swung into action, suggesting to his friend Lorenzo Fertitta, who he had been taking martial arts classes with, that the UFC was available and might be well worth pursuing. Meyrowitz was having a difficult time getting widespread approval from the various state commissions, and maybe Lorenzo, who was an active member of the Nevada commission, would have better luck. The price tag was $2 million, which seems ridiculously low now, but very much a risk then.
Lorenzo and his brother Frank Fertitta III took the plunge though, and in White, they knew they had the energetic mind to help them get the ball rolling. They put him in charge of the day-to-day operations, named him president, and gave him a piece of the action.
White has been the spearhead behind just about every stride the UFC has made with the media and with the public, including, but not limited to: increasing the pay-per-view numbers by leaps and bounds, bringing additional state commissions on board with the set of unified rules the UFC employs; spreading the brand through placement in many different venues, such as episodic TV shows and movies, and the music world (where UFC has a recording division), establishing a multi-media experience for the fan, entailing not only the pay-per-view, but cable television, podcast, internet, and DVD distribution, and much, much more.
All things considered, Dana White may be one of the most dynamic helmsmen in America.