Dana White UFC President Interview|
Interview By Tommy Rojas
The following is an interview Dana White did back in 2001, only four days after Zuffa finalized the purchase of the UFC from SEG.
The interview was done by Tommy Rojas of pimetimefighters. Tommy is a friend and business associate of Dana White's and Tommy was in Las Vegas on other business at the time.
He received a phone call from Dana and that was when Dana told Tommy they had just purchased the UFC. They met an hour later in Dana's office for this interview.
Tommy Rojas: Who owns Zuffa Corporation?
Dana White: Lorenzo Fertitta, Frank Fertitta III and Blake Santini.
Tommy Rojas: What is your position with Zuffa?
Dana White: President.
Tommy Rojas: What does Zuffa mean?
Dana White: It's Italian and it means to "fight" or to "scrap".
Tommy Rojas: What other businesses are they associated with?
Dana White: The Station Casinos: Palace Station, Boulder Station, Texas Station, & Sunset Station
Tommy Rojas: Why did you buy the UFC?
Dana White: First and foremost because we're fans. But also because we feel we can take the UFC to where it should've been taken a long time ago.
Tommy Rojas: There has been some negativity about the previous owners.
Dana White: Right. I think Bob (Meyrowitz) burned a lot of bridges and had a lot of conflicts. That's what made it tough for him to move forward with it.
Tommy Rojas: So he was difficult to do business with?
Dana White: Very confrontational. You have to look at it like this: He had a company that was doing business with the cable companies and he lost cable. And it was just a constant fight to get it back.
Tommy Rojas: He obviously never got it back. That must be a goal of Zuffa.
Dana White: That is our goal: To get it sanctioned in the state of Nevada and get it back on cable.
Tommy Rojas: Are you President of the UFC or Zuffa?
Dana White: Both UFC and Zuffa.
Tommy Rojas: Will the UFC and Zuffa co-exist here at the same Las Vegas location?
Dana White: Correct.
Tommy Rojas: There was already at least one fight card already scheduled, are you going to keep that?
Dana White: Yes. Trump Taj Mahal, Atlantic City Feb. 23rd, 2001. You won't see too many of our changes right away. You're gonna see some changes in the first UFC but the show was already planned so it's too soon for us to make any real changes.
Tommy Rojas: Taj Mahal is not on an Indian Reservation, why is it allowed there?
Dana White: Because it's been sanctioned in New Jersey. In fact, Paul Smith's IFC is holding another event this weekend there as well. That's the key.
Tommy Rojas: There has been alot of talk that the UFC didn't pay very well. Will that change?
Dana White: Right. That's gonna change. See, that's what we really want to change. We're gonna bring back alot of the fighters that left the UFC for that reason and the other reasons that they were chased away.
You have to understand Lorenzo and I.
Lorenzo comes from the Nevada State Athletic Commission, and what do they do? Their job is to look out for fighters. I was a manager, what was my job? To look out for fighters. So we really want to put alot of emphasis on the fighters. The old UFC's emphasis was the UFC. That was the main thing that they wanted to promote and publicize.
We want to create superstars.
Tommy Rojas: When will the UFC be in Las Vegas?
Dana White: That we don't know. We're working hard and we're hoping within 18 months.
Tommy Rojas: There are other people watching you, other organizations, pulling for you to get the UFC in Las Vegas.
Dana White: The first thing I did when we bought the UFC was call Yukino Kanda from PRIDE. I told her there was always a war between the UFC and PRIDE... I told her the war is over.
Our office staff started clapping and cheering when I made that call.
Then I called Terry Trebilcock from King of The Cage, Paul Smith from IFC. I talked to Jamie Levin from WEF today. Basically, these guys were all at war with each other and I want to work together. The sport of mixed martial arts is fighting so many other foes, whether it's cable companies or political foes, that we need to stick together and work to further the sport.
Tommy Rojas: Will you keep the UFC in Las Vegas once you start holding shows here?
Dana White: Well, I think Las Vegas will become the Mecca of mixed martial arts. I mean you can have fights in New Jersey, but it's cold in the winter time. Las Vegas is warm, it has so many other things to see and do, it's cheap. It's a great place to come and visit for a weekend. It's a good excuse to come and watch a fight.
I think that's why the boxing business does so well here. Everybody's looking for an excuse to go to Vegas
Tommy Rojas: You can no longer manage fighters, right?
Dana White: Right. That's been a big issue with us and it's a big issue right now. Anybody who's involved in the promoting part of the UFC has to pick one or the other. Either they promote or manage but you don't do both. It's totally unethical and a conflict of interest.
If you have a guy that's getting paid to set up the fight and getting paid from his fighter's pay as well, it's not right.
Tommy Rojas: Who's going to take over Tito (Ortiz)?
Dana White: A gentleman named Jim Gallo has taken over Tito and Chuck Liddell. He's an attorney here in Las Vegas. Smart guy, good guy, fair guy. And Tito and Chuck love him.
Tommy Rojas: Is he familiar with the fight game?
Dana White: Yes. He's one of the best contract lawyers as far as putting contracts together. And kicking promoters' asses. He's good.
Tommy Rojas: Who will join that stable with Tito and Chuck?
Dana White: Jim Gallo has some pretty decent boxers, and I think Alfonso Alcarez, a mixed martial arts fighter, will be joining them. Alcarez and Jens Pulver fought to a draw. He's a tough little guy. Look for him and Pulver to fight again soon. Because I'm sure Pulver would love that fight too so he could redeem the only bad mark on his UFC record.
There's a fighter out of Texas, Yves Edwards that will join Gallo also.
Tommy Rojas: So Gallo will continue to represent both MMA and boxers?
Dana White: Yes.
Tommy Rojas: What big names do you want to bring back to the UFC?
Dana White: (Smiling) I've talked to a lot of them already. I'd love to see Mark Kerr back. I'd love to see Coleman back, Frank Shamrock, and Ken Shamrock if he's interested in fighting still.
Tommy Rojas: Those are definitely some names...
Dana White: (Smiling really big) ...And my main goal, the main guy I want to get together with. Even if I have to co-promote with PRIDE, and we don't have a problem with co-promoting, they do it in boxing... is Sakuraba.
Tommy Rojas: Will he come here? Because I heard he doesn't like to fight outside Japan.
Dana White: I think he will. I think we can work out a deal with Yukino over at Dream Stage (PRIDE's parent company). Besides, money talks.
But, Yukino and PRIDE really want Tito. And we really want Sakuraba. So I don't see why we can't work something out. I enjoy working with PRIDE. I respect them, so I don't see a problem.
Tommy Rojas: You've told me Tito doesn't like fighting outside the cage.
Dana White: Right. That's something we'd have to work out in the contract. I don't really think Sakuraba would have a problem with that because he's fought in the UFC before.
Tommy Rojas: Any other Japanese fighters?
Dana White: Sakuraba's the main one. He's the man. Him and Tito would be a dream fight.
Tommy Rojas: Ali - Frazier I, Twenty First Century style.
Dana White: Exactly. Tito currently has the title, so the way I see it: Put Sakuraba and Tito together and Frank (Shamrock) gets the winner.
Tommy Rojas: That will sell you some pay-per-view.
Dana White: Yes it will.
Tommy Rojas: Any other middleweights you have in mind?
Dana White: Jeremy Horn, Chuck Liddell, Evan Tanner who is fighting Tito in this next UFC, Bustamante.
Tommy Rojas: There are a lot of people in the 199 and under division. What do you see in the heavyweights?
Dana White: Igor, Mark Kerr, Mark Coleman, Kevin Randleman, and of course our champ Randy Couture.
Tommy Rojas: Do you think Randleman should drop below 200 lbs. and go into that division?
Dana White: I don't know. Fifteen pounds is a lot of weight. It takes a lot out of you. Would Randleman be the same aggressive, powerful fighter he is after losing 15 pounds? Some guys can pull that off and others can't.
Tommy Rojas: Tito does it doesn't he?
Dana White: See, that's a big myth. Everybody talks about Tito's weight dropping. Tito only drops between 10 and 12 pounds for a fight.
Tommy Rojas: PRIDE has it's fighters and the UFC has theirs. Would you be stealing their thunder by signing the PRIDE's fighters for a UFC event?
Dana White: That's what I don't want. It shouldn't be that way. You see PRIDE's fighters are allowed to fight in the UFC, there's no contract restrictions with PRIDE fighters.
There's always been contract restrictions on UFC fighters fighting in PRIDE.
Tommy Rojas: Which is a shame because the money's always been bigger in PRIDE. And that kept the UFC fighters from getting paid more money.
Dana White: I think if we had Igor or Sakuraba fight in a UFC, PRIDE wouldn't have a problem with that as long as it weren't in Japan. It's always been the UFC who wouldn't let the fighters fight in other shows.
Tommy Rojas: That was in the contract? Why?
Dana White: I don't know.
Tommy Rojas: Get a taste of the money and "Leave me forever" or what?
Dana White: I guess. But PRIDE fighters from the U.S. have to travel to Japan for every fight, and that can't be easy even though Tito loves going to Japan. He only has to go there once, twice a year. These guys do it all the time and I know the last time I went to Japan I wasn't right for a week! So I don't how these guys go over there and do it.
Tommy Rojas: Will there be any rules changes in the 'New' UFC?
Dana White: It depends on the commission. I think the only thing that changed in New Jersey was there's no knees on the ground.
Tommy Rojas: What big heavyweight fights do you want in the upcoming cards?
Dana White: You know we have Randy Couture who just regained the Heavyweight Title. He is awesome.
Tommy Rojas: People love that guy. He is so well spoken and in super shape.
Dana White: This guy is such a stud. He's 38-years old. He just came back from like a 3 year layoff, regained the title from an unbelievable guy, and if you saw that fight...
Tommy Rojas: I did.
Dana White: That fight was the perfect example of what I'm talking about of where the sport could go. People want to bad mouth it because they don't understand it, they're uneducated in the sport. You've got two guys who are superb athletes. They went at it, it was a great fight.
Afterwards, Randleman goes up to Couture with the greatest gesture of sportsmanship I've ever seen: Passes the title over to him, congratulates him... it was just amazing. I was actually there and I was glad to be part of something like that.
I think I'd like to see Couture fight any of those guys out there. Any of the "Top" Dogs. He can hang with any of them.
Tommy Rojas: Did you buy the UFC website?
Dana White: Yes. We will be re-constructing the website and we hope to have our new site up by Feb. 5th. We plan on having a great website. I think our fans are gonna enjoy our website.
Tommy Rojas: What about the UFC logo? Is that gonna stay?
Dana White: No. That's changing. We're gonna have a whole new UFC.
Tommy Rojas: Who's the new logo?
Dana White: We don't know yet. We plan on having that up by Feb. 5th as well.
Tommy Rojas: Who will be your play-by-play and color commentators?
Dana White: We're keeping all the current employees in place right now.
We actually have administrative meetings all week this week. They're all flying out this week to meet with us.
The problem has never been the employees at SEG. It's been the lack of capitol, no cable, and burnt bridges. Things like that.
Tommy Rojas: Do you want people to be able to reach you right now?
Dana White: If people want, they can call 702-221-4780.
Tommy Rojas: Is your matchmaker still gonna be Perretti.
Dana White: For now, we won't be making any changes.
Tommy Rojas: Anything else you want to discuss or are you ready for dinner?
Dana White: Let's go eat.