What Did Dana White Do Before Running the UFC?

The legendary president of the UFC, Dana White, has been a fighter all his life. Sometimes he fights with his own people, and other times he fights with things that just can’t be fought. Before he became the president of the UFC and turned the fledgling company into the global phenomenon that it is today, White started small, and he started in Boston. 

Dana White, bellhop 

Everyone starts somewhere, and White started as being a bellboy for a fancy Boston hotel. The fanciness of the hotel meant that he was paid well, but it wasn’t enough for him. When generous patrons tipped him and his coworkers, White and the other bellboys would argue over who’d get the tips. 

They’d settle it with a fight, a regulated fight, but a fight nonetheless. Like most fights between two men, strikes to the groin weren’t allowed, and in this case, blows to the head were banned as well. Only body shots were allowed, and the winner of those bellhop brawls was given the tips.

However, that cushy job and that taste of fighting weren’t enough for him, and when he was just 19-years-old, he walked out the door to pursue his life’s passion.

Boxing in Boston

For the next few years, White pursued every avenue of boxing he could find. From actually competing to training and managing others, if it involved boxing and if it paid money, Dana White did it. The fight game was White’s passion and he, for those few years, was scraping by while pursuing his dreams. 

But then White encountered a fight he couldn’t win. While training some guys in a gym, henchmen from the infamous Irish mobster Whitey Bulger approached White. That wasn’t uncommon for Bostonians back then, as the mob controlled much of the area. 

The henchmen demanded that White pay them for operating in their area without their consent. They wanted $2,500 but White, still young and still broke, couldn’t afford to pay up. White ignored the henchmen’s demands until a henchman called him and gave him a deadline. That was a deadline that White couldn’t meet and so, he hung up the phone and left for Las Vegas as soon as he could.

Living in Las Vegas and running the UFC

Dana White continued working in the boxing scene to make a living when he arrived in Las Vegas. That was also when he started taking notice of MMA and the UFC, as the organization was just recently established. White didn’t dabble too hard in MMA, but he started managing a few fighters who were fighting in the UFC.

That was also when his fortunes turned as White attended a wedding and there he’d meet an old friend of his from high school, Lorenzo Fertitta. Fertitta and his brother, Frank, had relocated to Las Vegas and started running casinos successfully. The friendship between White and Fertitta reignited at that moment, and soon, they agreed that they would work together on a business venture one day. 

Dana White had several odd jobs before running the UFC.
Dana White had several odd jobs before running the UFC. | Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

That day came when White had to deal with a contract dispute between the UFC and one of the fighters he managed. Dana White, being the shrewd man he is, looked into it and realized that the UFC was in financial trouble. 

White thought that the UFC could become a huge entity in the future, and so he pitched the idea of buying the organization to the Fertitta brothers. They both agreed, and in 2001, the three men formed Zuffa Inc. and purchased the UFC. 

Though the road since then hasn’t been smooth, the UFC’s been on a meteoric rise ever since. Poetically, after Conor McGregor had a boxing match with Floyd Mayweather, White decided to expand his company into boxing, the sport where it all began for him.