For weeks, onlookers speculated that the UFC was at the center of an alleged $4 billion sale. Current owners Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta are expected to cash in their 80 percent stake in the UFC and walk away. It’s a sensible maneuver, having earned an estimated 200,000 percent return on their initial investment.
As Yahoo Sports notes, the brothers and UFC President Dana White each invested a couple of million in the UFC back in 2001. At the time, UFC fights were only allowed in New Jersey, and the company had next to zero respect in the sporting world. Many view the MMA sport as “human cockfighting.” It lacked the respectability of boxing while taking itself far more seriously the then equally-lowbrow WWE.
Yahoo Sports and Forbes give all due credit to Dana White, whose vision and unique methods of conducting business are credited with lifting the MMA company to dizzying heights. Without that kind of drive and intimate understanding of what’s best for the UFC brand, many fear that the company will not survive without him.
“Retaining White for promotional purposes would be a logical move on the part of the buyer. Love him or hate him, the outspoken president has built the UFC into one of the world’s most valuable sporting entities over the past decade. Letting him leave would represent a drastic shift for the brand — something that new ownership does not appear keen on.”
But what IF the new owners were keen on a drastic shift: Could the UFC survive without Dana White?
I, for one, find it a bit insulting to suggest that my loyalty to MMA fighting lives and dies with Dana White’s presence at UFC. That would be like saying if Don King walked away from the sport of boxing, boxing fans would have fled after him. If the UFC continued to have great fights, somehow I think we’d all survive whatever changes may come. With or without Dana White.
Should the buyers take that leap, they’d just have to be as savvy about it as possible.
I think the key to replacing Dana White would be to aim for someone who is solely business-minded. One of the biggest weaknesses that White has is that often he’s recently become notorious for petty, personal decisions. One only needs to look at the current state of the women’s bantamweight division to see what I mean. And if you don’t want to, please ask me again what the point of that McGregor vs. Diaz rematch drama was? All of that could be traced back to Dana’s misuse of hype and favoritism.
I distinctly remember these controversies being enough for some UFC fans to demand that Mr. Dana “BLAF” White to “hit the bricks.” They were pretty loud about it, too. Yet when such a possibility presents itself, suddenly there’s radio silence. Now they’re muttering that the UFC can’t survive without White. Suddenly, White’s decision-making s no longer being questioned as his presence is better for everyone. UFC, heck MMA is now the house that Dana White — and White alone — built. All without throwing a single punch!
Hmm, I guess potential absence makes the heart fonder after all.
In any case, this appears to be a scenario that UFC fight fans won’t have to contemplate — at least for now. One thing no one is considering is that Dana White may be kept on in the short-term to make adjustments easy for fans. For all we know, the new owners could be looking around for a suitable replacement for White.
If so, I would like to volunteer Conor McGregor. Don’t you dare do a spit take! McGregor has all the hype sensibilities, and he did talk his way into being the best-paid fighter in the company. UFC 200 implosion aside, Conor McGregor knows how to use social media to ways to create hype that I’ve yet to see Dana White accomplish. If given the opportunity to take on a larger role at UFC, I would consider McGregor a sensible “heir apparent” to White. Like Dana, Conor is also as divisive, but perhaps a bit more entertaining with it. I also suspect he wouldn’t necessarily let a desire to get back at others under his thumb get in the way of making money.
If Dana White ultimately didn’t stay on, who do you think the new UFC owners should find as his replacement? Share your opinion below!
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