Playboy Interview: Dana White

By Kevin Cook

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Playboy Interview: Dana White:

Your mom's worst sports nightmare—brutal hand-to-hand combat in a cage—has become the fastest-growing sport in the country, dominating cable, pay-per-view and probably an arena near you. One man is responsible: a shaved-headed, bullnecked college dropout whose three favorite words are "fuck," "fucking" and "fucked." At 39, Ultimate Fighting Championship president Dana White has risen from aerobics instructor to the kingpin of professional mixed martial arts, an often violent combination of boxing, kickboxing, wrestling and jujitsu that makes old-fashioned sports look about as tough as Scrabble. He appears constantly on TV, jets around the globe promoting the UFC, parties with celebs and feuds with some of his own fighters. His hard-nosed approach to contract negotiation made him an enemy of UFC legends Randy Couture and Tito Ortiz, but White rolled merrily on, and so did the brand he built from the ground up. The UFC has kicked so much butt in the prized 18-to-34-year old demographic that rival mixed-martial-arts leagues are now springing up like Las Vegas casinos, backed by deep-pocketed businessmen such as Mark Cuban and Donald Trump. White's next fight will be to keep his brand on top in the face of this new onslaught of competition. Eight years ago White was a washed-up amateur boxer and gym owner in Las Vegas, managing Ortiz and Chuck Liddell, semifamous stars of the UFC, then a near-bankrupt cage-fighting circuit. After hearing the UFC was for sale, White persuaded a couple of his high school buddies— casino moguls Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta—to buy it for $2 million, make him president and give him a 10 percent ownership stake. Four years later he owned 10 percent of less than nothing. White and the Fertittas were millions in the hole. Most people weren't surprised. Mixed martial arts had been tagged as brutal—Senator John McCain branded it "human cockfighting"—and it was illegal in most states. But White carefully engineered a turnaround, making the sport safer and then lobbying for government approval. It worked. The bloody spectacle he calls "this monster" stomped, kicked and thrashed its way to pop-culture dominance and a current value of more than $1 billion. It's one of the most watched sporting events on TV, and the UFC has been so successful that even its competitors are doing well, one landing a special on prime-time network TV. But no one has achieved the stature or power in the sport that White has, and no one has made more enemies doing it. We sent contributing editor *Kevin Cook** to UFC headquarters in Las Vegas to find out how and why. "I've covered every major sport," says Cook, whose new book, Driven: Teen Phenoms, Mad Parents, Swing Science and the Future of Golf, just hit bookstores. "Nothing quite compares to the UFC. It's as rich and rowdy as White, who has enough energy to power the lights of the Vegas Strip. Over two blazing-hot days in the desert, we talked in his office, with its jumbo photos of his boyhood heroes Muhammad Ali and Bruce Lee, and in a basement gym where he shadowboxed and pumped iron. He can bench 325 pounds—not bad for an executive who turns 40 next summer. During our talks he often jumped up to illustrate a point, pretending to crouch like Tito Ortiz or throwing a punch that stopped an inch short of my chin. "White is loud, brash, cocky and unstoppably profane. I fucking loved meeting him." *PLAYBOY:** How big can the UFC get? WHITE: Fucking big. What are the major sports in America right now? The NFL and major league baseball, with the NBA third. The NHL was fourth for years, but now we're fourth, and we're still in our infancy. Our ratings on Spike TV beat most of the major sports in our 18-to-34 demo. Last year we beat four Monday Night Football games in the demo. In eight years the UFC will be bigger than the NFL, bigger than World Cup soccer. It will be the biggest sport in the world. PLAYBOY: You won't beat the NFL as easily as you beat hockey. WHITE: There's nothing bigger in this country than the NFL. Everybody watches the Super Bowl. But football is limited. The NFL has spent billions to move into Europe, but it will never work. They don't give a fuck about NFL football in Europe. They don't know the rules. They didn't grow up playing the game. PLAYBOY: They didn't grow up fighting in the Octagon, either. WHITE: But the Octagon transcends cultural barriers. People get it. You know why? Something in our DNA loves fighting. Women are attracted to the toughest guy. "Ooh, I want to get close to him." Guys want to be him. Go to an intersection anywhere in the world: On one corner they might be playing basketball, stickball on another corner, street hockey on another, and on the fourth corner a fight breaks out. What does the crowd do? They run to the fight. Not only the crowd but the guys playing the other games! We're human beings, man. We love a fight. PLAYBOY: So why is boxing dying? WHITE: Corruption, fragmentation and greed killed boxing. When I started with the UFC I took all the shit I hated about boxing and changed it. PLAYBOY: You grew up loving Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson. How do you feel about killing their sport? WHITE: The UFC didn't kill boxing, but the timing was perfect. We're filling the void boxing left behind. PLAYBOY: What if there's a Tyson out there now—the next great boxer. If big-time boxing goes away, he'll be unknown. WHITE: Nah. He would become a mixed martial artist. Think about it: If Tyson started out in martial arts at the same age he started boxing, he would still be Tyson, but he would have done his thing in the Octagon. I'd pay to see that. PLAYBOY: Under the original UFC rules, he could have bitten guys' ears. WHITE: That's illegal now. We're a real sport. PLAYBOY: Who's a better athlete, Chuck Liddell or Kobe Bryant? WHITE: Kobe could out-jump Chuck. But my guys are well versed in boxing, kickboxing, muay Thai, wrestling and jujitsu and fierce in cardio and weight training. UFC fighters are the best all-around athletes in the world. PLAYBOY: But not the most famous. That's Tiger Woods. WHITE: I fucking hate golf. It's a stupid game and a waste of time and good land. But I love Tiger's passion and killer instinct. We watched the U.S. Open on TV here at the UFC offices, and I was yelling for him. Tiger's got more money than God, but he's still out there pumping his arms, going crazy. Some guys might think, I've already won everything, I've got money coming out of my ass, and I'm playing on a broken fucking leg. Maybe I'll lose this one time. But no, not him. He's thinking, I'm gonna bury you. Tiger Woods is a fighter. PLAYBOY: His mother taught him to "step on their throats." Suppose Tiger wanted to try a real man's sport. Could you train him to be a UFC fighter? WHITE: He's too old to start. You don't just jump into mixed martial arts. Fighters get punched in the face every day. I don't see Tiger going in for much of that. PLAYBOY: You used to get punched every day. What made you quit boxing? WHITE: As a kid I liked wrestling. Like a lot of World Wrestling Entertainment fans, I was into the story lines and soap operas. I loved Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka— PLAYBOY: Flying off the top rope— WHITE: But once you turn 16 you want the real thing. I was a tough enough kid, a boxer who could punch and take a punch. I wanted to be Sugar Ray Leonard or Marvin Hagler. I was dying to win a title—IBF, WBA, a state title, even a city title. Then one day I met this local big-deal boxer, 30-some-years old. A name guy. He was so fucking punchy, his brain was mush. He didn't have a job. He just moped around the gym. That's the day I realized I wasn't a real fighter, because real fighters don't think, I might need a job someday. They'll lose two or three in a row or 10 in a row and keep fighting. I respect that more than anything, but I'm not that guy. PLAYBOY: How hard on the brain is Ultimate Fighting? WHITE: People think our sport's more violent than boxing. Wrong! They're weirded out because it goes to the ground. We grew up with John Wayne movies—you don't hit a man when he's down. It's un-American! John Wayne would deck a guy, stand him back up and hit him again. So when Americans first watch UFC—one guy's on top of the other, hitting him when he's down—they say, "Oh God, he can't defend himself!" It's not like that in Asia, where they've been doing martial arts since the samurai days. Here's another misconception: Americans think, How much can it hurt, getting hit with those big padded boxing gloves? But they protect the hands. When boxing was bare-knuckle, fights would last about two seconds. Guys kept hurting their hands punching the other guy's hard, bony head. So they created a padded weapon, and you could punch a guy in the head—bam bam bam—without breaking your hands. Boxing also has a three knockdown rule. You hit me so hard you jarred my brain, so I couldn't stand up. That's one. Now, if I can get back up, you can concuss me again. I go down and get up. If you do it again, the fight's over. Boxers die every year, mostly from brain damage. In the UFC a lot of the punching is on the ground. I'm trying to make you cover up so I can pull off a submission, get an arm bar, and maybe the ref will stop the fight. It's not like a punch from a boxing stance, which is boom—throwing my whole 205 pounds right into your face. We also use smaller gloves. Our guys don't take anything near the punishment boxers take. PLAYBOY: Senator John McCain famously called the UFC "human cockfighting." That actually helped you, didn't it? WHITE: Exactly. John McCain created the UFC. All he meant was, you can't put on illegal fights; you have to be sanctioned by an athletic commission. We agreed. The Fertitta brothers and I wanted to change the rules and be legal. We're still not sanctioned in Massachusetts, New York and a lot of other places. PLAYBOY: Did you ever thank McCain for his help? WHITE: I walked up to him at a boxing match and said, "I'm Dana White from the UFC." He mumbled hello. The guy's running for president; he doesn't give a shit about me. PLAYBOY: Who would win in the Octagon, McCain or Barack Obama? WHITE: I would go with Obama. He's younger. Hillary Clinton might kick the shit out of both of them. PLAYBOY: You mentioned being a tough kid. WHITE: I grew up in Las Vegas. My dad used to be a firefighter, but later he was mainly out drinking. My mom was a nurse. She worried because I was a horrible student who hated school. She kept threatening to put me in private school and finally did—St. Viator's School in the eighth grade, then Bishop Gorman High School. Strict Catholic schools. I got expelled twice. Once was for kicking an old nun's door shut. That door would make a huge bang; I would kick it and run, then she would freak and let the kids out of class, so the kids loved me. One day I kicked it and my shoe flew 30 feet in the air—right to her! "Ha-ha, I've got him now!" They caught me walking around with one shoe and kicked me out. The other time was for fighting. This guy was tossing big heavy rocks at a toad in a planter. I said, "Knock it off. Leave that toad alone." "Fuck you," he said. So we fought. I was throwing punches, thinking, Here I am in Catholic school, saving a horny toad's life. They'll say I'm a hero! No, they kicked me out again. PLAYBOY: Are you still a Catholic? WHITE: I don't believe in God, the devil, ghosts or any of that shit. But I'm still fascinated by religion—how violent and crazy it is. That stuff sticks with you. PLAYBOY: Ever have a religious experience? WHITE: The summer of my junior year I was 16, drunk and hauling ass in my girlfriend's Subaru with a girl who wasn't my girlfriend. I had just met this girl at an under-21 club. I hit the median, spun the car and hit a pole, and the impact shot me out of the car. It scalped me, took all the hair off my head. I landed in the parking lot of the Dunes, which is now the Bellagio, with chunks of glass in my head and rocks and shit in my knees. Broke my collarbone. My feet busted open like baked potatoes. The girl was okay, but she was screaming. I couldn't see, but I heard someone say, "I'm a doctor, I'm a doctor." The doctor looked me over and said, "He's dead." I remember lying there, thinking, Oh my gosh, I'm fuckin' dead. Then he said, "I got a pulse. He's alive!" I spent that summer in the hospital. Then my mom sent me to live with my grandma in Levant, Maine. That makes sense, doesn't it? You've got this troubled kid the parents can't handle, so you send him to a 70-year-old lady in Maine. I just went out drinking and partying every night. Girls and more girls. PLAYBOY: You were a ladies' man? WHITE: I was very sexual. I was 14 the first time I had sex. It was in a maintenance shed in Vegas with a girl named Jane, with rakes and lawn mowers all around us. PLAYBOY: You had the sharpest tool in the shed. WHITE: Probably the smallest! It was awkward and very fast. I obviously didn't impress Jane, since that was the only time we got together. PLAYBOY: You took a long, strange trip from that shed to the UFC headquarters a few miles away. What made you think you could be an executive? WHITE: I never did. I just wanted to be in the fight game. After high school I moved to Boston with my mom. I was a bouncer at an Irish bar, the Black Rose. Tips were great on New Year's Eve and St. Paddy's Day. You would give me 10 or 20 bucks and I'd let you in ahead of other people. My other job was pouring asphalt for EJ Paving, working for these crazy Italian dudes who would throw buckets at you. They would throw wheelbarrows! That was a shit job. All day you were rubbing diesel fuel inside your wheelbarrow to keep the asphalt from sticking, and when the hot mix went in, it steamed right up in your face. It was 100 degrees out, 100 percent humidity. At lunchtime me and this other kid, Al Filosa, would put on a show. We'd punch each other while the other workers watched. PLAYBOY: In the face? WHITE: No face shots. We would have broken our hands. PLAYBOY: Then you worked as a bellman. WHITE: Yeah, at the Boston Harbor Hotel. I once got a $100 tip. The bellmen would argue over who would get the next guest. We would settle the arguments by punching the shit out of one another in the bellmen's closet. Again, no face shots. PLAYBOY: Was the closet octagonal? WHITE: No. It was just a narrow little room where luggage was stowed. That job was good money. I was 20 years old, making $50,000 a year, cash, but I hated it. Carry the bags out, put 'em in the car, the guy gives you three bucks. 'Oh, thank you, sir." I would drive to work feeling miserable, like 99.9 percent of America. One day I told my bellman buddy, "I'm done, bro. I quit." "Are you fucking stupid?" he said. "What else can you do?" "I'm gonna be in the fight business," I said. "I don't give a fuck if I carry spit buckets for a living." PLAYBOY: So you went back to Vegas? WHITE: Not yet. I had a little bar fight. PLAYBOY: What should a guy do in a bar fight? WHITE: Run. My sister got into an argument. The bar was in south Boston—Southie, a tough part of a tough town. I went over and said, "Did you fucking touch my sister?" Next thing I knew there were guys coming from every direction. They kicked the shit out of me for 20 minutes, the worst ass kicking of my life. I would get up, hit the guy closest to me and try to run. They would beat me down again, but I would pop back up. Bam, down again. I thought, They're gonna kill me. Where are the police? Finally the police came, and these guys started fighting them. They all got arrested. Weeks later I got a call from an attorney. He was working for one of the guys who beat me up. They were worried about my testifying against them, which I would not do. I would never go to court and say, "Ooh, he hit me!" I asked the lawyer, "Is your client there? Put me on speakerphone." And I went off on his client. "You want to know something, you fucking pussy? You and your 50 friends beat on me for 20 minutes, and I don't have a mark! I'm not even sore! You must be the biggest pussies in the world, and if I ever see you again, I'm gonna kick your ass when all your friends aren't around." PLAYBOY: You weren't sore? WHITE: The reality was, I was so sore I didn't want to touch my hair for weeks. I lost the hearing in my left ear. I'm still deaf in that ear. But I didn't want him to know that. PLAYBOY: Did you see him again? WHITE: Never. He probably sees me on TV and says, "We kicked the living shit out of that guy!" PLAYBOY: So you left Boston? WHITE: Not yet. First I taught a boxercise class at a health club in Southie—until two guys showed up in the middle of class. "Can we talk to you?" We went out in the hall. "Do you know who we work for?" I knew. PLAYBOY: Boston's Irish Mob was reportedly run by James "Whitey" Bulger, the model for the Jack Nicholson character in The Departed. WHITE: "You're doing business in our town," one of them said. He wanted $2,500, or maybe it was $3,500. It might as well have been $35 million, because I didn't have it. "Borrow it from your girlfriend," he said. They knew I had a girlfriend. "She doesn't have it either." "Just get it." I finished teaching my class and pretended it never happened. I didn't want to know those guys. Then my phone rang and the same voice said, "You've got till fucking Sunday." PLAYBOY: Did you pay them? WHITE: I couldn't. So I called Delta Airlines, packed a suitcase and flew home to Vegas. I left my furniture, stereo and girlfriend behind. PLAYBOY: In a way, the UFC owes its existence to McCain and Bulger, who is now on the FBI's most wanted list. WHITE: Every guy loves the Mob, but it's not so cool when it's after you. PLAYBOY: In Vegas you reconnected with your old friends Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta, the heirs to a local casino empire. In 2001 they bought the floundering UFC for $2 million. They made you president and gave you a 10 percent stake in the company. What's your 10 percent worth today? WHITE: About $200 million. PLAYBOY: But there were dark days at first. Some accounts say the UFC was $30 million in the hole by 2004. Others put the number at $40 million. WHITE: It was $44 million. In three years I'd lost my friends $44 million, and I was devastated. Lorenzo said, "We can't keep funding this thing. See what you can get for it." So I worked out a deal with some investors for $6 million to $7 million. That night when I went home, I didn't sleep. I thought the deal was done. Then Lorenzo called. "Fuck it," he said. "Fuck it. Let's keep going." I was already working like a nut, but after that I basically quit sleeping. I still don't sleep. Last night I went to bed at 1:30 A.M., and I got up at 4:45 in the morning. I'm too wired to sleep. PLAYBOY: Your breakthrough was getting on Spike TV. Your reality show, The Ultimate Fighter, turned the UFC into a sort of soap opera. WHITE: There would probably be no UFC without The Ultimate Fighter. Spike wouldn't pay to produce it, so we had to do that ourselves. It cost $10 million. Frank and Lorenzo said, "Okay, we're in for $44 million. Let's go another 10." If they hadn't had the balls to do that, we wouldn't be having this interview. PLAYBOY: How did the show take shape? WHITE: We got the right partner in the show's creator and executive producer, Craig Piligian, who tweaked the reality aspects. Originally, we had two houses, with the champion from one house facing the one from the other. Craig said, "No, there's only one house." He was right: You lock these guys up for six weeks without TV or music, nothing to read and no chance to get laid. It's torture, which is good TV. PLAYBOY: It was torture for you in the first season. WHITE: We spent our make-or-break $10 million, but Spike wasn't 100 percent behind the show. Then the president of Spike got fired. We were in fucking turmoil. By then The Contender was on, a boxing show that was the most expensive reality show yet. It failed, but our fighters watched and saw that the Contender guys were getting $25,000 apiece. They said, "What the fuck?" Then I got a call from Lorenzo, and he said, "Our guys won't fight unless we pay them something." I said, "Really? Would you like to fucking bet?" I hauled ass to the gym and started busting their balls. It was all on the show: "Do you want to be a fighter, or do you want to go home? I'll send you home right now!" They fought. PLAYBOY: Spike gave you a second season, and you have consistently been its highest-rated show ever since. WHITE: It worked out for both of us. PLAYBOY: Your prefight speeches are legendary, both on the show and in real life. Last fall you flew the UFC fighters to Vegas for a summit meeting. WHITE: I talked about where we're going. I took questions, mostly about taxes. Success is hard for fighters. They get a check for a million, and it's "Yeah, I'm a millionaire!" They don't realize they already owe $300,000 in taxes. So they spend it: houses, cars, women. Pretty soon they're saying, "Whoa, I blew a million dollars!" PLAYBOY: You also talked about steroids. WHITE: Everybody went steroid crazy after WWE wrestler Chris Benoit killed his family. Now, I'm not endorsing steroids, but guys have been taking them forever. Football players, weight lifters, baseball players, cyclists, track athletes—you name it. Horses! In all that time, how many went crazy and killed their families? One. That dude was nuts. PLAYBOY: Have you taken steroids? WHITE: Yes. There was a doctor here in Vegas when I was in high school; you went to his office and said you wanted to try his "weight gain" program. PLAYBOY: Injections in the butt? WHITE: Injections and pills. Pretty soon I felt strong. Superhuman. But I wasn't comfortable with it. It's like smoking weed—you do it because your buddies do it. I smoked weed and tried cocaine but didn't like them. Even alcohol sucked. I'd get drunk and feel shitty the next day, and semi-shitty the day after that. It was like wasting three days. So I quit drinking. Nintendo was the same thing. They had a great game called Ring King. One day I sat there playing it, loving it, and then I looked up at the clock and it was 7:30 at night. I didn't get paid, didn't gain anything—I just wasted a day of my life. I never played a video game again. PLAYBOY: How will you keep fans addicted to the UFC? WHITE: My job now is to fight off all the maggots and leeches who are trying to take a chunk out of us. PLAYBOY: Do those leeches include Mark Cuban and Donald Trump? WHITE: Mark Cuban's a smart guy. He's passionate about basketball, but I don't think he gives a shit about mixed martial arts. He sees some quick money in it. Trump's different. I have a ton of respect for him. When the Fertittas bought the UFC, most venues wouldn't deal with us. We were outlaws. Our first event was at the Trump Taj Mahal, and Trump actually came to the fights. Way back in 2001 he was up in the front row, watching the UFC. You'll never hear me say a bad word about Donald Trump. He can have my seats anytime he wants. PLAYBOY: How about Gary Shaw of EliteXC? WHITE: Scumbag Gary Shaw is a piece-of-shit dirtbag who could care less about our sport. He's one of the maggots I have to fight off who didn't believe in mixed martial arts five years ago. PLAYBOY: Then there's Jay Larkin, head of the upstart International Fight League. WHITE: Let me tell you a story about Jay Larkin. He used to run boxing for Showtime until he got fired. Seven years ago Lorenzo Fertitta and I went to Larkin's office in New York. We asked him to put the UFC on Showtime. He said forget it. "We don't want it on our network." Fast-forward seven years and he's running a mixed-martial-arts company. Yeah, I'm worried about him—a guy who hates the sport. PLAYBOY: Maybe you could buy him out. Last year IFL stock was selling at $17 a share, but as we talk it's down to four cents. WHITE: I'll stick with my stake in the UFC. PLAYBOY: Meanwhile, Shaw's EliteXC got its star, Kimbo Slice, on CBS last spring. He was the first mixed-martial-arts fighter on prime-time network TV. WHITE: That was a freak show. PLAYBOY: How many of your 180 or so UFC fighters could take him? WHITE: All of them. He may be the toughest 250-pound guy at your backyard barbecue, but I've got a kid, Urijah Faber, 145 pounds, who would beat him. We're a world-class sport, not a freak show. PLAYBOY: Were you ever tempted to sign Kimbo Slice? WHITE: We could have taken the freak route years ago with a bigger name than him. PLAYBOY: Who? WHITE: Mike Tyson. We talked about it when we were bleeding money, but we backed out because it would have been a stunt. I love Tyson, but I love our sport more. PLAYBOY: You were close to a multiyear deal with HBO. WHITE: I pulled the plug at the 23rd hour. HBO was pissed off. PLAYBOY: Why did you pull the plug? WHITE: I would have had to sell out, literally. They would have owned the UFC. PLAYBOY: Were you tempted? WHITE: I took meetings with HBO's boxing guys. I'll tell you, if I had to hear one more time how many fucking Emmys they had won, I was going to dive out the window. I said, "You won a bunch of Emmys, but I'm kicking your ass on pay-per-view." PLAYBOY: HBO wanted to change the UFC? WHITE: We give you a show. Boxing is all about the main event. Nobody wants to see the undercard—you could shoot off a cannon and not hit anybody. Fans get a bunch of crappy undercard fights, everyone's yawning, and you wonder why boxing's dead? The UFC is all about energy. We've got music blasting, lights blazing, fans going crazy. I pick all the lights, music and video, and it still gives me goose bumps. But HBO said, "You've got to shut all that down." They wanted to shoot it like a studio show. Now, I know I sound like an egotistical dickhead, but I built this business, and nobody's going to tell me how to run it. PLAYBOY: Boxing promoter Bob Arum thinks you're a genius. "The UFC is cleaning our clocks," he says. WHITE: Five years ago he said we were ridiculous. PLAYBOY: Now you've got a slew of UFC merchandise in the works. Trading cards and action figures of your star fighters—Chuck Liddell, Brock Lesnar, Antonio "Minotauro" Nogueira and Anderson Silva. WHITE: Plus hats, T-shirts, sleeping bags and UFC toys in 60 different countries. We're finding ways for our guys to make money when they're not fighting. Did you ever see a Larry Holmes toy? No. I could drive you to the toy store and show you a Rowdy Roddy Piper doll, and he hasn't wrestled since the 1990s. What does that mean? It means Rowdy Toddy's sitting on a couch somewhere, getting a commission off his WWE dolls. That's what we want for our fighters. PLAYBOY: You have a THQ video game coming out next spring. WHITE: It'll be the best fighting game ever made. PLAYBOY: What tie-ins have you turned down? WHITE: Porn. Not that I have anything against the porn industry. I find it quite entertaining! But when some porn makers wanted to sponsor us, I said no. Strip clubs, too. Because I want kids watching us. Did you know there are more kids taking mixed-martial-arts lessons than any other martial art? You're going to see high school MMA teams and MMA in the Olympics. This is a great sport for kids. It gets them off the couch, teaches self-defense and gives them confidence. PLAYBOY: Sometimes you say no to fighters. You're a tough negotiator at contract time. WHITE: Every six or seven fights, a guy's contract comes up, and it's my job to give him more money or not. I'll never be everyone's best friend, but our guys do fine. Ninety-one percent of our UFC fighters make more than $50,000 a year. Fifty-four percent make more than $100,000. PLAYBOY: Still, you've had contract disputes with Randy Couture and Tito Ortiz. What if the fighters form a union? WHITE: I don't see it happening. The IFL likes to say, "We're here for the fighters. We want to give them medical benefits." I'm thinking, Really? Go open a fucking yogurt shop and see what an employee medical program costs. I would love to see Jay Larkin call Blue Cross and say, "Hi, I've got 250 ultimate fighters. Please give me a health plan." That's real smart. That's why their stock is at four cents. PLAYBOY: What if a guy breaks his neck in the Octagon? WHITE: He's covered. We cover all medical bills for any injury fighters sustain at our events. PLAYBOY: Do you think UFC fighters who call you cheap are greedy? WHITE: No. It's human nature to want more money. If you want greedy, look at Floyd Mayweather. PLAYBOY: After Mayweather retired this spring, there were rumors that he was going to join the UFC. He told PLAYBOY he is interested in mixed martial arts. WHITE: I consider Floyd one of the best boxers ever, but he's too old for the UFC, and he's not really retired—just greedy. Oscar De La Hoya offered him $25 million, but Floyd wants more, so he'll probably wait for Oscar to fight Miguel Cotto. Then Floyd will get the winner. If it's Cotto, he can fight Cotto and then say, "Oscar, let's do it again." This is the kind of shit that made people sick of boxing. PLAYBOY: Tell us about a UFC immortal, Tito Ortiz. WHITE: That big-mouthed bitch, that clown. Back when he had the title, he refused to fight Chuck Liddell. He sat on the sidelines for a year and a half, crying, "Aww, I don't have any money!" So I brought him back and made him a coach on The Ultimate Fighter. That year he made more than $6 million, yet he bitches about me. Well, I put up with Tito's shit when he was a decent fighter, but now he's not and I don't have to. PLAYBOY: He lasted nine weeks on The Celebrity Apprentice, with Gene Simmons, Stephen Baldwin, Lennox Lewis and Playmate Tiffany Fallon. WHITE: Did you see what a wallflower he was on that show? The guy has no presence. He was the idiot hiding in the back. If he actually did something, people would know how stupid he is. PLAYBOY: What's his IQ? WHITE: About four. It's the same as IFL stock. PLAYBOY: Did you enjoy his last UFC fight? WHITE: When Lyoto Machida kicked his ass? I lost my voice yelling for Machida. PLAYBOY: What do you think of Ortiz's girlfriend, Jenna Jameson? WHITE: Once in a radio interview I called her and Tito a "double idiot power—two of the dumbest humans you'll ever meet." She called me and said, "Why would you say that? All the shit's between you and Tito." I said, "Jenna, you're his manager." She said, "Dana, it's unfair to take a shot at me," and I agreed. "You're right," I said, and I haven't said a bad word about Jenna Jameson since. PLAYBOY: Do you think she has helped his conditioning? WHITE: It didn't look like it in his last fight. Honestly, I think Jenna's been a distraction to him. In a few years Tito's going to realize he left millions of dollars on the table. PLAYBOY: At least he has his health. You once said the UFC is safer than badminton. WHITE: Right. "In almost 20 years of UFC," I said, "there's never been a death or a serious injury. I don't think even badminton can say that." PLAYBOY: What badminton player was ever killed? WHITE: I have no idea. I just thought it sounded good. PLAYBOY: Somebody might have gotten a shuttlecock in the eye. WHITE: It had to happen! PLAYBOY: What's the worst UFC injury you've seen? WHITE: Tim Sylvia's broken arm. PLAYBOY: Frank Mir got Sylvia in an arm bar, and Sylvia's right forearm snapped. The referee stepped in, and Sylvia was furious. He wanted to keep fighting, but you officially ended the fight. WHITE: That arm was tough to look at. PLAYBOY: What matches do you want to see next? B. J. Penn vs. Georges St. Pierre? WHITE: GSP's got Jon Fitch first. But B. J. and GSP would be a huge, exciting fight. B. J. dominated the first round when they fought in 2006, then he gassed out. GSP composed himself and pulled out a narrow win. If they meet again, it will depend on B. J.'s conditioning and how much better GSP has gotten in two years. Chuck Liddell and Rampage Jackson—that would be a big fight. Chuck and Forrest Griffin. Chuck and anybody! I also want to see Nogueira and Mir, two of the best heavyweight ground fighters ever. Silva just moved up in weight to fight James Irvin; he's talking about going up to 205 pounds to fight Liddell. That one would be a monster: the best pound-for-pound fighter against the most famous mixed martial artist of all time. PLAYBOY: In June one of your billionaire backers, Lorenzo Fertitta, resigned as president of Station Casinos to join you as co-boss of the UFC. Some fans saw the move as a sign the Fertittas were losing faith in you. WHITE: I'll still do all the shit I've always done. Lorenzo will focus on our international expansion, which is a relief to me. I mean, I was home for four days last month. I'll be in town for only 24 hours all next week. Lorenzo and I were already talking on the phone 20 times a day. I look at it this way: What bigger hire could the UFC make than Lorenzo Fertitta? PLAYBOY: Some saw the move as a prelude to taking the UFC public. WHITE: I can't picture that. Companies go public because they need money. We don't. PLAYBOY: You like to gamble in the Palace Station, one of the Fertittas' casinos. WHITE: I play a little blackjack. Well, a lot of blackjack, for $5,000 or $10,000 a hand—enough to get the blood flowing. PLAYBOY: Does the UFC need a network TV deal? WHITE: No. Where's television going? To the Internet. We may see Yahoo or Google buy one of the big-three networks. Pretty soon you'll be watching the UFC on your computer or on your TV through your computer. PLAYBOY: Suppose someone died in the Octagon. Would that hurt the business or help it? WHITE: It would hurt me. A guy dying in the Octagon—at least he would be doing something he loved. I figure everybody dies, but not everybody really lives, which sounds very Braveheart, but it's true. If you're asking me if a death would be good for business, I don't know. I would rather brag about our perfect safety record. I would like our fighters to stay healthy, compete into their 40s and not have to worry about money after they retire. We are really trying to create the perfect business. PLAYBOY: You have some unsightly ears in the UFC. What causes cauliflower ear? WHITE: You get blood in there, and the cartilage dies. You're supposed to drain the blood with a syringe, but some guys don't want to. It's a badge of honor. Randy Couture and Forrest Griffin have nasty ears. Those two might be the worst. PLAYBOY: Which hurts more, a body blow or a punch in the nose? WHITE: When you get punched in the nose you see bright lights, stars. You think, That hurt, and I can kind of taste it in my throat. But a big body shot under the ribs is the worst. Your ribs separate, and you can't breathe. Ask any fighter if he'd rather take a good body shot or get hit in the face, and he'll take the face all day long. PLAYBOY: Are there UFC groupies? WHITE: Most of our hard-core fans are guys. With the girl fans it's "I love the sport. Let's take a picture together!" They're not trying to have sex with you. PLAYBOY: How about gay fans? WHITE: Glad to have 'em! When we started out, I did a cool layout in a gay magazine with Liddell, Matt Hughes and some of our other fighters. There's no homophobia here. PLAYBOY: Let's do a few more Octagon matchups. Mark Cuban vs. Donald Trump. WHITE: Cuban. I love Trump, but Cuban is younger. PLAYBOY: What about Leno and Letterman? WHITE: Leno. He's younger. PLAYBOY: Floyd Mayweather against Dana White. WHITE: Uh-oh. I would want it to go straight to the ground! PLAYBOY: George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg. WHITE: Mark's tough. I trained him to box. He would take Clooney fast in the first round. PLAYBOY: Alien vs. Predator. WHITE: I'll say Predator. He's got arms and legs and shit. I don't know what the Alien's got. PLAYBOY: James Bond vs. Jason Bourne. WHITE: Bourne every day of the week! PLAYBOY: You may want to skip this one: the Fertitta brothers. WHITE: Whoa. Well, Frank Fertitta is the most aggressive human being I know. Lorenzo's more technical. If it went a few rounds, Lorenzo might wear him down, but Frank hits like a truck. We were doing jujitsu one time and he about pulled my foot off. My ankle still clicks when I walk. PLAYBOY: How much fun is it to be worth $200 million? WHITE: You know, when the Fertittas and I bought the UFC, it was dead. We weren't thinking, We're going to cash in. We bought this thing because we fell in love with it. That's what we've got on everybody else in this business—they're just in it for the money. I honestly don't give a fuck about money. It's a tool to have fun. I'll probably be the MC Hammer of the fight-promoting world. PLAYBOY: You'll look funny in those big pants. WHITE: [Laughs] I'll be on VH1 in five years, saying, "I had it all—money, cars!" PLAYBOY: Do you think about your legacy? WHITE: Not in UFC terms. I mean, the UFC matters—it will be the number one sport in the world—but I've got kids: two little boys, Dana and Aidan, and a girl, Savanna. When I'm lying in that casket, man, I want my kids to say, "He was a good dad." That's the only legacy I give a shit about. PLAYBOY: You'll be thinking, I'm glad I didn't die in that Vegas car wreck. WHITE: It's funny how one thing can change history—not religion, but fucking fate. If I had died that night, there would probably be no UFC.


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