If there is person running a sport who works as many hours as Dana White of Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), I’d like to hear your nomination. The man gets about four hours of sleep a night, tucks his cell phone under his pillow and wakes up periodically to answer texts and tweets, and the results speak volumes: Zuffa, the parent company of UFC, privately owned by the casino magnates Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta with a chunk held by White, is valued at about $1 billion.
The sport of mixed martial arts, or, as it was known back in the day, “extreme fighting,” was a niche oddity, probably close to swirling down the drain, when the Fertittas purchased it in 2001. It had a rep worse than Lindsay Lohan; cable companies turned up their nose at the product, seeing it as only half a step up from cockfighting. The Fertittas took over, unleashed the maniacally ambitious and driven White to build it up, and today, UFC is a brand, a league and a sport. But it still isn’t legal in New York. And for a sport still in its infancy, getting it legal in the world’s media capital is a priority, to put it mildly.
For years, White has been optimistic that the powers that be, specifically the State Assembly, which banned MMA in February 1997, would see the light and lift the ban.
Today, he is again saying he believes UFC will play in NYC. The UFC’s day-to-day boss sounded like the same hyper-driven doer as always in a phoner with NYFightblog, days after surgery on his ear to treat Meniere’s disease, an inner-ear disorder that affects balance and hearing.
"I can't hear too well," he said Friday, chuckling. "There's a loud ringing in my left ear. I had surgery Tuesday."
And you took a few days off, for rest and recuperation, right?
"I took no days," said the 43-year-old, who lives in Las Vegas. "I was in the office the next day." UFC ran an event in Brazil on Saturday, which was televised by FX. The next card gets rolled out Feb. 2, at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Vegas, and on pay-per-view.
White is keen on running a splashy pay-per-view in New York, this year. "I'm very optimistic we'll get this done, but who knows what the chances are, because for so long I've been optimistic."
Check back for Part 2, and hear just how confident White is that UFC will soon set up an Octagon in the Empire State.