Dana White entered the business of mixed martial arts in 2001, when he along with childhood friends Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta bought the then financially struggling UFC. The three turned it into the combat sports powerhouse it is today, but when the Fertittas sold the company to WME-IMG in 2017, White decided to stay on as president.
The UFC also signed a broadcast deal with ESPN last May, which was initially for five years. On Monday, it was announced that the agreement has been expanded to seven years, which apparently applies to White, as well.
“We had a five-year deal with (ESPN),” White told Megan Olivi in a sit-down interview (transcript by MMA Fighting). “Now, we have a seven-year deal. And [UFC parent company Endeavor CEO] Ari Emanuel and I just signed a new seven-year deal, too.
“So we’re here for seven years, ESPN is here for seven years. And the incredible things that we’re gonna work on, I just can’t even tell you how pumped I am for all of this stuff.”
White has been vocal about his intentions to have the UFC brand and mixed martial arts compete against the “Big Four” leagues in the US, namely the NFL, NBA, NHL, and MLB. But with a lengthy deal with ESPN in place, the brash UFC exec says it has finally happened.
“Nobody believes in this business more than I do,” he said. “After the sale, I stayed on and we’ve been working hard for the last 2-1/2 years to take this thing to the next level. That’s why I’m here. I didn’t stay here — it’s not about money, it’s not about any of that stuff. I don’t care about any of that stuff.
“I like to win and I like to take this thing to the next level, the next level, the next level. And it’s what we’ve done and it’s what we’re gonna continue to do.”
“A lot of big things have happened to us over the years, but once you make it to ESPN, you know you’ve made it as a sport. And right now, if you look at our deal, where we’re at, what we’re doing, we’re now one of the top four sports in the United States.
“The Big Four has changed. We are now one of them.”
On Monday, it was also announced that all UFC pay-per-view events will be aired exclusively on ESPN+ in the United States.