When UFC owners Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta sold the fight promotion in July 2016 for $4.2 billion to WME–IMG, the promotion’s longtime president, Dana White, was distraught. He and the Fertitta’s had been in control of the company since January 2001 and built the organization from a $2 million purchase to one of the most valuable sports franchises in the world.
He eventually came to his senses and got back to work building the sport of mixed martial arts.
“The turning point for me, I guess, in getting me back to me was Lorenzo looked at me and said, ‘Dude, I’m done. Be happy for me,’” White explained during an appearance on The Exchange. “As (expletive) up as I was when this thing happened, I couldn’t be in a better place now.”
With the initial shock of the sale behind him, White has returned to his usual role as the face of the organization and the driving force of the sport. He’s fueled by the doubters and feels like he did when he and Zuffa were growing the promotion.
“Now we’re back on track. Me and Ari Emanuel (one of the UFC’s new owners) could not be in a better place. I could not be a bigger believer in what we’re going to do over the next five years and what these guys bring to the table. I love the negativity again. I love the doubt. I love it. I feel like I’m back in the old days where everybody doubts, and that’s the (stuff) that motivates me,” he said.
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“If you look at what Lorenzo, Frank, and I accomplished when we had no production experience, no connections to Hollywood or L.A. Television isn’t what we did. We had never been in the pay-per-view business before, and you look at what we did. Now we’re with a guy who is the king of Hollywood, and doing deals like this is what he does. It’s just going to be so much bigger for the sport, obviously for the brand, and for the fighters,” added White.
Emanuel, a 56-year-old talent agent and new UFC owner, has a vision and plan for the fight promotion’s future. He intends to continue to grow the brand and take MMA to another level. White has complete confidence in Emanuel.
“Ari is one of these guys… He’s got huge balls. He is very smart, and he has laid out a really great plan for the sport. The vision that Ari has for it right now, I am on board. I love it,” White said.
“The level that we’re going to take this thing is going to blow people away. And I’m talking globally. This thing just sold. We’re considered one of the most valuable sports franchises on Earth. It’s going to be so much bigger.”
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