Dana White is the gregarious promoter who turned MMA, once considered “human cock-fighting,” into a multibillion-dollar major sports league. The UFC’s fearless leader did this with a combination of smarts, charm, relentlessness, and more than a little menace.
There are plenty of stories that involve White’s temper and profanity-laced tirades. However, MMA journalist Ariel Helwani recently shared an account of the UFC head man seriously crossing the line when he banned the reporter from UFC events for life just for breaking a story.
Dana White built the UFC into a multibillion-dollar industry
White was born in Connecticut and started out as a professional boxer after high school, according to Forbes. His path to the UFC involved stints in Boston and Las Vegas and colorful stories that featured the likes of the infamous Boston mobster Whitey Bulger.
Eventually, White reconnected with old friends Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta, who owned casinos in Vegas. Forbes also reported that the trio bought the near-bankrupt UFC property in 2001 for around $2 million.
Fifteen years later, the trio sold the UFC to WME|IMG (Now Endeavor) and two other investment firms for $4 billion. It is the biggest transaction in sports history.
White still runs the UFC with little interference from the current owners, and he still runs it with an iron fist.
White crossed the line with Ariel Helwani
Helwani is a long-time MMA journalist who recently joined The Ringer. This new position got him a guest spot on the Bill Simmons Podcast, where he told the host a story about his most memorable run-in with White.
Ahead of UFC 200, Helwani, then at FOX Sports, broke a story that legendary pro wrestler and UFC fighter Brock Lesnar was returning to MMA. When the story came out, White requested Helwani meet him in a back room of The Forum in Los Angeles.
White banned the journalist for life, and UFC personnel escorted him out of the building during the event. Fans revolted against the UFC for its treatment of the popular personality, and the organization eventually reinstated him.
However, Helwani still remembers a bone-chilling comment White made that night:
I’ll never forget, they took me to the back, [White’s] standing there, he’s wearing all black, he said, ‘You’re out. You’re done.’ He said — and this is something I’ll never forget — he said, ‘We just put a bullet in your head. Your career is over.’ And I remember thinking to myself, ‘That’s a weird analogy for a guy from Vegas to say to someone, but alright.’
He also said because Dana White hates losing so much, he is still “unwilling to bury the hatchet” with Helwani to this day, and the two are still not on good terms.
UFC 264 features the highly-anticipated match between Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier
This marks the third fight between the two MMA masters. McGregor came out of the first match victorious in 2014, while Poirier won the day on “Fight Island” in January 2021, per the New York Times.
Helwani told Simmons that McGregor, like many MMA analysts, blames excessive boxing training for his loss in the last fight. The journalist said when visiting with the fighter that he seemed like the “old” Conor McGregor and is focused and determined.
In addition to his mindset, Helwani also noted McGregor changed from a boxing stance to his old karate-style stance to protect his front leg, which Poirier took advantage of in January.
The UFC 264 early prelims start at 6 p.m. EST on ESPN+. The pay-per-view card kicks off at 10 p.m. EST, and the main event should tip around midnight. The premium card is $69.99, or you can get the fights with a year-long ESPN+ subscription for $89.98.