Many would laud UFC president Dana White and his former partners Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta for building up the company into the powerhouse that it is today. After purchasing the struggling organization for $2 million in 2001, the Fertitta brothers were able to sell their ownership rights for a staggering $4 billion in 2016.
As Lorenzo and Frank both stepped down, White continued to be the company’s face and mouthpiece for current owners, WME-IMG. But as he revealed in his recent appearance on the Pivot Podcast, it was a very difficult decision for him to make.
“It was actually a really bad time for me. I didn’t want to do it. And the Fertittas were ready to get out. And here was the thing, they had a sitdown with me,” White recalled.
“They’re basically, like, ‘We had everybody in here going through the deal. Everybody was in here kicking the tires, looking to buy it. From ESPN to Turner to all these different funds and groups from all over the world.
“They sat me down and said, ‘We’re gonna sell this thing and we’re ready to go. But, nobody will take it unless you stay. So you have to stay. You have to do this.’
White was apparently so distraught that he isolated himself from everyone for a while.
“And I was, kind of, in a weird place, ‘cause I’d done this thing with them — these are my best friends, we’d done it together.
“And I got a little f—ked up. I took off for a little while, went up into a hotel room, and didn’t come out for a few days. I was a little f—ked up over the whole thing.”
The 52-year-old White eventually found a way to get himself out of that funk, and he has nothing but positive words about his new partner, Ari Emanuel.
“I snapped out of it, I got my shit together. The sale happened. What I’m saying is if I have to stay, don’t put me with some f—ked up group of people…
“Ari (Emanuel) was going at this thing hard, and I wanted to be with Ari. So it worked out perfect, and Ari’s been incredible to work with. So it couldn’t have turned out any better.”
After that massive sale, White is set for life could easily retire any time he wishes. But for him, he says it’s about doing what he loves for the last 21 years, and he sees no end in sight.
“I still love it, I’m still having a blast. I (got) over my little phase. The money hits the bank, and it’s a weird thing,” White said.
“I had money. I’d already had money, I’d money for f—ng 15 years before that. But then, you get that kind of money. I built a bigger house…
“I don’t walk away. Going through that transition with the Fertittas to WME was a good experience for me. And it reminded me how much I really love this business and love what I’m doing.
“They’re probably gonna have to f—ng drag me out of here. I don’t see myself walking away from this.”
On the same interview, White discussed the controversial issue of low UFC fighter pay, arguing that it’s just that all those boxers are overpaid.