How Dana White became the most powerful man in MMA

There’s no real point of comparison for Dana White.

He is a fight promoter in the classic sense, Don King with a different hairstyle (or at least the absence thereof), but that label doesn’t really do him justice. He is a de facto commissioner, but rather than working to serve the interests of a group of team owners, he has been a business partner with those who own what is by far the dominant organization in his sport. He is a matchmaker who wields enormous power, given that he operates what feels like a monopoly in which his athletes aren’t unionized and, other than the megastars, wield precious little power.

He has, when necessary, acted as a publicist and a political lobbyist; as both an f-bomb-dropping, t-shirt-wearing bro and someone comfortable in corporate boardrooms, negotiating multi-million dollar deals with sponsors and television executives.

Not to mention the fact that he claims he once fled Boston because the gangster Whitey Bulger wanted to do him harm.

Along the way, White played an enormous role in inventing a major sport essentially out of thin air. That you don’t see every day. White and his original partners — the Fertitta brothers, Lorenzo and Frank, who were both much quieter and much more wealthy — fundamentally changed the global sports landscape.

The individual disciplines that combine to form mixed martial arts are as old as humankind (see Cain v. Abel). But when the original Ultimate Fighting Championship first appeared under the leadership of music and radio entrepreneur Bob Meyrowitz, it relied less on history and more on curiosity. What would happen if you put a sumo wrestler in with a boxer, or a karate master in with bar brawler, and let them duke it out to the finish?

“There are no rules” was the original marketing slogan.

What …read more



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