Many would argue that MMA has surpassed boxing in terms of popularity and relevance. The once most prominent form of prizefighting has now taken a backseat to a more “exciting” sport, largely thanks to the UFC.
Many would also credit company president Dana White and his then partners the Fertitta brothers for MMA’s rise to prominence. Two decades after he bought the company, White is perfectly content about things turning out the way he intended them to.
“When me and my partners got into this 20 years ago, our goal — and what has remained my goal — is to build this sport into the biggest sport in the world,” White said in his recent appearance on The Fight with Teddy Atlas. “15 years ago, people thought I was nuts when I was saying that. But look at what we’ve done, look at what we’re doing.”
While conveniently ignoring all the super-fights they didn’t book through the years — from Fedor-Couture/Lesnar to GSP-Silva to now Jones-Ngannou — White again slammed boxing for failing to deliver fights “that fans want to see.”
“That’s never been the goal of boxing. Every time (promoters) put on a fight, it’s like a going-out-of-business sale,” White said. “‘How much money can we steal from everybody?’ And every time you turn off the TV, you’re pissed off that you stayed home on a Saturday and watched the fight. You wish you did something else.
“You don’t even care if the fans are happy with the product. You don’t care. ‘Cause that guy’s gonna fight for over another year again, anyway, and everybody will forget how shitty this fight was and they’ll buy the next one.”
White also sees his current partnership with ESPN as a huge advantage.
“The truth of the matter is, we are the largest pay-per-view provider on Earth. And when you talk about Showtime, Showtime is a very, very small universe. And with all these cord-cutters now, not a lot of people have Showtime. So when these fights happen, there aren’t a lot of people that are watching them.
“I’m on ESPN, and there’s a big difference. And every week, we put on fights with the best versus the best in the world. And many times, the massive underdogs in this sport win. Which makes the sport fun, exciting. You get these ‘Holy shit!’ moments. And more importantly, it makes it very fun to bet on, too.”
White has been teasing his own boxing venture for several years now, including a supposed Zuffa Boxing launch in October 2019, but nothing has come to fruition so far. However, White claims these plans are still on the table.
“Yeah, I’m still kicking the tires and looking around. It’s a very complicated… the sport’s such a mess,” White said of the current state of boxing. “It’s literally a mess. And to pull it off, you have to actually get in there and clean it up. And I’ve been working on this for years. I don’t know, we’ll see what happens.”