Dana White Says The Future of Fighting is Here. Here's Why We Should Listen.

The UFC president speaks mostly in fiction, but here's why he might be right

Back in June 2008, Dana White told the world that he would soon be making a huge announcement.

This announcement would blow your mind. It would be the biggest and most important day in the history of the UFC, he said. It would change the UFC forever, he said. And because this was 2008, and because 2008 was maybe the last year Dana White had the ability to say words that were sometimes true, people believed him.

We got really fucking excited about this announcement, folks. 2008 was also the last year that Twitter was a thing used solely by tech reporters and/or nerds (confession: I joined Twitter in January 2006), before it began to serve its real purpose: causing the downfall of humanity.

But while we (well, most of us) didn’t have the ability to use Twitter to share every single thought that popped into our brain, we did have Gmail chat and we were members of bulletin boards, and you can bet your ass we speculated about what, exactly, Dana White had to say.

On the MMAjunkie Forum, “wvufan81” kicked off four days of wild speculation and predicting when he posted this:

Anybody else hearing that Pretty Boy Floyd is signing with the UFC?

That would be ridiculous. That is the only thing I can think of to say about that.

Because the internet is both terrible and forever, you can go back and read all of it, but here are some of my favorite things posted in a thread that reached eleven pages before the day of the announcement rolled around. None one of them ended up being correct in June 2008, but some of them were remarkably prescient years later.

Ya never know that it MIGHT be that DW has resolved a FIGHT ISSUE.And that Randy/Fedor is going to fight for the Title in the UFC.

UFC 88 
LIDELL vs Wanderlei 2 to be air free on spike tv and FOX

UFC : The Movie.
A gut-wrenching story of a Man, his dream, and two rich mutha's that venture into the underground fight world, only to create a monster that would be bigger than all of them.
The part of Dana White played by Edward Olmos.
The part of Rampage Jackson played by Bill Cosby.
The part of Joe Rogan played by Carrot Top.
The part of Sean Sherk played by Carrot Top.
The part of BJ Penn played by the rubber guy from the fantastic four movies.
The part of Dan Mirigilotta played by Stevie Wonder.

Does anyone think maybe that the UFC has been sold...or has partnered with a more powerful icon...ie Donald Trump backing Affliction...??

There were a lot of folks who were absolutely sure the UFC had signed Floyd Mayweather to fight in the Octagon. But “atomdanger” threw cold water on that notion:

1. The UFC would never sign an untested boxer with zero mma experience.

If you read through the MMAjunkie thread, you’ll eventually notice a marked change in the way folks were posting about the announcement. There was less this is going to be huge, what could it be? and more I’m starting to feel like I’ve been fed a heaping pile of bullshit.

I don't hate Dana White but the guy just talks so much without backing up a good percentage of what he says. As an MMA fan I wanty to pay attention to news not get yanked around with words.Please come in with a late day big news announcement Dana so I can eat my words instead of losing more respect for you.

The tone of the discussion takes a turn as June 12, the day White was supposed to make the announcement, came and went. It starts plummeting downhill when White says, a week later, that he never planned on making a big announcement to the public and that it was just a thing for his employees.

It’s a big [expletive deleted] announcement, it’s a big [expletive deleted] deal but I got a lot of other stuff we’re working on right now. It was never anything I said I was going to announce to the media. 

The next day, Dana finally made his bombshell, blow-your-mind, this-will-change-the-UFC, I-never-said-it-was-a-big-announcement announcement: Lorenzo Fertitta was leaving Station Casinos to become the full-time CEO of the UFC.

Now, look.

Was Dana White right about that 2008 announcement? Yes. It went over like a fart in church with the fans. But that day was a landmark moment for the UFC, a moment that led to the UFC’s rise as a massive international sports property.

For all the credit White deserves for his blustery, shouty, red-faced role in helping the UFC gain traction from 2002-2008—and he deserves a ton of credit—Lorenzo’s decision to focus his attention and stellar business acumen on the UFC’s business operations in June 2008 did change the UFC forever. They landed on network television. They expanded their revenue while positioning the UFC itself, not the athletes competing under their banner, as the main draw. They built a business model built off athletes in combat while limiting the amount of cash they had to fork over to those same athletes.

And eventually, of course, Lorenzo and his brother realized they’d taken the whole thing as far as they could, and they sold it for $4 billion.

Did White have any of that stuff in mind when he told us in 2008 that his announcement would change the UFC forever?

Probably not. You might’ve noticed that he isn’t really a guy who puts a lot of emphasis on thinking about the long run; on the surface, he’s a very right fucking now kinda guy. It’s the guys behind the scenes—first Lorenzo, and now Ari Emanuel and Patrick Whitesell—who let White have the camera and the public eye while they strategize and plan. He provides a sort of cover for them; we’re all too distracted by the bald guy out in front of the curtain to notice the people behind it.

But here’s the thing: White is a lot smarter than people give him credit for. I shit on him a lot here because I think he’s usually deplorable and gross, but you’ll never hear me say he’s dumb. He is a liar, and he is usually an asshole. But being a lying asshole doesn’t make you stupid.

He might not have known, back in 2008, just how right he was about Lorenzo taking over, but you can be sure he learned a few things after.

When he hypes a big announcement that will change the future of fighting, and that announcement ends up being just an arena built by the UFC offices, it’s easy to react and call him an idiot and take a dump on what little remains of his credibility. But just because the announcement underwhelmed us—just because it didn’t match the things we allowed ourselves to dream up and predict and fantasize about—doesn’t mean he won’t end up being right, somehow.

The new arena gives the UFC operational control over entire events. They now have a way to control venue, production and distribution of live events from top to bottom, without any partners to please or share revenue with. This may seem like a not very big deal right now, in 2019. But as television moves even more sharply towards OTT over the next decade, and as huge media companies adapt and try to figure out how to keep their piece of the pie, it will be a very big deal.

The UFC Apex announcement may not have blown your socks off in 2019. But eleven years from now, there’s a great chance we’ll all look back and see that Dana White, for all his fiction and bravado, for all his lies and bullshit, was fucking right again.