If you are a UFC fan, you surely know who Dana White is. Whenever there is talk about the UFC, their events, fighters, salaries, upcoming bouts, the name Dana White comes up during the conversation. Big, bold, charismatic, passionate guy, the face of the UFC, Dana White is the man who’s been a part of the UFC for a long time. Back in January 2001, Dana became the president of the UFC. In 2001, Station Casinos executives, brothers Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta, alongside their business partner Dana White, bought the UFC for $2 million. Since then, the UFC has emerged as the fastest growing sports franchise in the world.
In July 2016, the Fertitta brothers sold the UFC for $4.025 billion. At the time, Dana White owned 9% of the company. He made around $360 million from the sale. White announced that he would continue in his role as the president of the UFC and that he was given an undisclosed stake in the new business.
One thing is for certain. MMA is the fastest growing sport in the world, and Dana is the perfect person for UFC promotion. There is no doubt that the value of the UFC (and Dana’s piece of that cake) will just get bigger as time passes by.
Today, Dana White is the face of the UFC, but how did it all start? How did Dana manage to get the UFC, MMA, and himself the event that had been nicknamed “human cockfighting” to the show that organizes the biggest fighting events in the world?
What Did it Cost?
White’s career in the fighting business started early. At the age of 17, he began boxing. While he was living in Ware, Massachusetts, he found himself in some serious problems with local mobsters Whitey Bulger and Kevin Weeks. Dana stated that Weeks basically said, “You owe us money.” with the amount being owed estimated at $2500. “It was like $2,500, which was like $25,000 to me back then, and said, ‘You owe us money.'”
The extortion lasted for a while, and one day, Dana got a call, “You owe us the money tomorrow by 1 o’clock'”. White, as he claims, hung up the phone, bought a ticket for Vegas, and left for good.
The Vegas life was perfectly made for Dana. His determination, in combination with his charismatic personality and good decision-making skills, was the recipe for success. White soon climbed up in the fighting game, both as a fighter and a manager.
He ended up managing Tito Ortiz and Chuck Liddell, who would later become one of the biggest UFC stars in history. While working as a manager, Dana got in contact with Bob Meyrowitz.
Bob Meyrowitz was the owner of the parent company of the UFC. White soon found out that Meyrowitz was planning to sell the UFC. As Dana was quick and sharp in making decisions, he immediately contacted his childhood friend, Lorenzo Fertitta. He presented Lorenzo with the idea of buying the UFC.
In January 2001, Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta bought the UFC for $2 million. UFC became a subsidiary of Zuffa, and Dana White was installed as the president of the UFC. The Fertitta brothers retained 80% of the UFC, and Dana was given 9% of the ownership.
How Rich Is Dana White?
With the Fertitta brothers buying the UFC and naming Dana White the president, the rise of the UFC started. Dana White was the perfect person to take the sport of MMA to the global stage. He had everything it takes to be the first face of the UFC. White had a background in fighting and promoting fights, an unprecedented motivation and work ethic, a sturdy and unapologetic personality. He is quick, sharp, and calculated when it comes to making decisions, and he is not wrong very often.
But as it always is, the business isn’t always smooth sailing. In 2005, Zuffa had a $30 million. White came up with the idea to air UFC events on Spike TV on a regular basis, paying Spike $10 million for the deal. Soon, the UFC’s global popularity started to rise rapidly. With the names of Brock Lesnar, Chuck Lidell, Tito Ortiz, Anderson Silva, Georges St-Pierre, Jon Jones – the UFC exploded. The events had larger and larger audiences.
On August 18, 2011, the UFC and Fox made a seven-year broadcast deal. During the Fox era, the UFC and the sport of MMA became what they are today. In these years, UFC got massive global popularity through the likes of Ronda Rousey, Conor McGregor, who skyrocketed UFC’s worth. During these years, UFC held numerous 1 million+ PPV events. With event gates at te MGM Grand, T-Mobile Arena, Madison Square Garden generating more than $10 million each time.
In 2015, UFC made a gross revenue of $600 million, which was the perfect example of how good the things were going for Dana White and the Fertitta brothers. In July 2016, Zuffa (the parent company of the UFC) was sold to a consortium of investors led by WME-IMG for $4.025 billion (not bad when you consider that Dana and the Fertitta brothers bought the company for just $2 million). As Dana had 9% of the company, he got around $360 million.
Dana has a reported yearly salary of $20 million. Taking the amount of money he got from the sale of UFC, and other money incomes, like TV shows Dana White: Lookin’ for a Fight and Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series, as well as his gambling ventures, Dana White has a net worth of roughly $500 million.
Here is a perfect motivational video from Dana White about his early life and how he got into the fighting business:
Who Owns the UFC Now?
In 2016, Dana White and the Fertitta brothers sold a majority stake in the UFC to WME-IMG for $4 billion. The same year, UFC also brought in a group of 23 celebrity investors, who reportedly earned hundreds of millions the year before from dividend payout (with White reportedly getting more than $3 million). Here is a list of 23 celebrity investors who have a share in a UFC’s ownership:
- “South Park” creator Trey Parker
- Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton
- tennis players Maria Sharapova, Li Na, Serena Williams, and Venus Williams
- “Red Hot Chili Peppers” band members Anthony Kiedis and Flea
- chef Guy Fieri
- music producer Calvin Harris
- singer Abel “The Weeknd” Tesfaye
- television personality Rob Dyrdek
- “Maroon 5” frontman Adam Levine
- movie producer Michael Bay
- actors Ben Affleck, Mark Wahlberg, Tyler Perry, LL Cool J, and Sylvester Stallone
- New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft
- Patriots quarterback Tom Brady
- late night television hosts Conan O’Brien and Jimmy Kimmel
Although the owners of the UFC changed, one name remained. With Dana White still being the president of the UFC, the promotion’s success continued. In May 2018, UFC and ESPN made a new media rights deal. A five-year deal brought all the UFC’s events to the ESPN channels in 2019. The whole deal was worth $1.5 billion. The same year (2018), Dana also stated that the UFC is now worth $7 billion.
“Every year for the last 18 years, we’ve done something to take the sport to another level, and we did it again with this deal,” UFC president Dana White said. “It’s massive on so many different levels. We’re on what everyone looks at as the world leader in sports.
When the WMG-IMG owners bought the UFC, they sure didn’t make a mistake with leaving White as the president. He is the most qualified person to be the president of the UFC. His passion and love for MMA has helped the UFC and MMA leave the Abyss and become one of the world’s most popular sports, with new fighters emerging as global superstars every year.
From the first time White heard about the UFC in 2000, Dana did not just help the rise of the UFC, but the MMA in general. In the past years (and surely in upcoming ones), millions of young kids around the world will step into the world of MMA. For that, whether you like him or not, he has to receive most (if not all) of the credit.
To see how passionate Dana is about the UFC (and how angry he can get at the reporters), take a look at this video with some of his most famous rants about the fighting game:
How Much Is Dana and the UFC Paying Their Fighters?
Another interesting topic are the salaries of the UFC’s fighters. As that is a very large topic to write about, we decided to make a broad statistical analysis of these earnings.