During a speaking engagement at Wild Card West boxing club in Santa Monica, Calif., on Tuesday night, UFC president Dana White alongside Hall of Fame boxing trainer Freddie Roach said he’s “getting into boxing, 100 percent” and has started the process to obtain a promoter’s license.
From the sound of the statement, the first thought is and should be, is the man who helped make the UFC a worldwide juggernaut leaving the sport which made him a household name?
“No, no, no, I’m not leaving the UFC,” White told the LA Times. “I’m getting into boxing with (Endeavor head) Ari [Emanuel], and the UFC will be doing boxing too. It’s still early. We’re still working on it. I’ve got to get my [stuff] together, but I’m getting into boxing, man. It’s coming.”
The thought of White getting into the boxing arena is very intriguing. Overall, if the move happens, it will be good for boxing.
Look at what he’s done for the UFC. In 2001, along with lifelong friends Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta, White helped turn a fledgling organization that was over $40 million in the hole, to the premiere combat sports entity in the world that sold for over $4 billion in 2016 to WME-IMG (now Endeavor).
With White on the front line, he helped mold stars such as Chuck Liddell, Randy Couture and Tito Ortiz and mainstream stars like Brock Lesnar, Ronda Rousey and Conor McGregor.
While boxing has big names like Canelo Alvarez, unified middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin and heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua, few are considered mainstream attractions. Canelo’s Nov. 2015 bout against Miguel Cotto and September showdown against Golovkin are the only two fights since 2003 not involving Floyd Mayweather, Oscar De La Hoya or Manny Pacquiao to do over 900,000 pay-per-view buys.
There are great fighters like WBC heavyweight titleholder Deontay Wilder, unified welterweight champion Keith Thurman and IBF welterweight champ Errol Spence, Jr. who should be in the conversation of being stars but aren’t, partially due to the lack of proper marketing by their respective promoter. If they fought under a potential Zuffa Boxing banner, the marketing prowess of White and his staff would better the chance of these fighters reaching superstar levels.
Trepidation in boxing is bigger. Up until the Mayweather vs. Pacquiao bout in May 2015, there had been a 10-year trend in which the biggest fights weren’t getting made for multiple reasons; The main being fighters and promoters accepting fights which followed the path of least resistance to money and exposure.
White has developed one of the biggest egos in all of sports and has no qualms taking fighters to task if a bout isn’t made or fighters complain. Would longtime promoter Bob Arum or Oscar De La Hoya be willing to work with White, considering the bad blood which has brewed between the three over the last couple years?
People want to see the best facing the best. That desire has required competing promoters like Arum and Roc Nation, co-promoters of the highly anticipated Dec. 9 bout featuring WBO junior lightweight champ Vasyl Lomachenko and Guillermo Rigondeaux, to step up and play nice.
Unless White garners a massive array of talent in quick order, fights like that would be hard to make under the Zuffa Boxing and he would have to put the bravado aside and be willing to work with the likes of Arum and De La Hoya.
But that aside, just having White involved in the sport is a win-win. While the Mayweather-Conor McGregor bout in August was going to do big bucks, it didn’t hurt that White did a ton to sell the bout. Understanding that type of star power is something White brings to the table that boxing promoters — seemingly or unwillingly — cannot do.
Can White be over the top? Absolutely. Sometimes his exuberance is a bit too much and rubs people the wrong way.
But White gets the job done. He was able to get the UFC cable TV deals with Spike TV and Fox — while the deal expires next year, the UFC is talking to different networks and a new deal is expected to easily eclipse the seven-year, $700 million deal the UFC signed with Fox back in 2011.
In a sport that has started to regain a foothold in the minds of the American people, White is the guy who can push it to the next level.
Steven Muehlhausen is an MMA and boxing writer and contributor for Sporting News. You can listen to his podcast, “The Fight Junkies” here . You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and can find him on Twitter @SMuehlhausenMMA .