The UFC is the pioneering organization for the sport of Mixed Martial Arts. While everyone by now knows the name, few know the story behind how the modern version of the UFC really took off. From dark and dingy basements to the fastest growing sport in the world, the UFC is now bigger than ever and eating up the market share of competing sports like boxing. If it wasn’t for the magic city of Las Vegas and some crucial figures that are well known there, the UFC would have never survived.
Las Vegas is the Birthplace of Modern MMA and the UFC
These days, Las Vegas is becoming well known for a lot more than just their wide range of casino games, the city is turning into a prominent eSports hub, which might be a relatively new concept although competitive gaming has always been around, and now even more with the rise of virtual reality. In addition to that, Las Vegas is also considered the #1 destination for MMA prize fighting. While their reputation for hosting high stakes boxing matches is well respected, Dana White and the UFC have come and established Las Vegas as the home for high adrenaline Mixed Martial Arts fights. The history of Dana and Las Vegas is a long and fascinating affair.
Dana White and his Ties With Las Vegas and the Early UFC
Dana White had always been involved in the fight game in one way or another. Back home in Boston, Dana was a seasoned boxer who had made the switch to teaching boxing classes. After a run in with the famous Irish gangster Whitey Bulger, (an entire tale in itself) Dana left Boston for Las Vegas in a move that seems like fate when you look back on it.
Once he landed in Las Vegas, he connected with his old friend Lorenzo Fertitta, who was the executive and co-founder of Station Casino at the time. Together with his brother Frank Fertitta, the three would train boxing and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu together, meeting other MMA fighters from the UFC. Dana would eventually go on to manage UFC legends Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz and it was through his work managing them that he first learned the UFC was in dire financial straits.
Buying the UFC with the Fertitta Brothers
Dana and the Fertitta brothers had expressed interest in becoming boxing promoters together for some time, so naturally, the UFC posed a unique opportunity for them. Long time fans since the early days of the UFC, they had often talked about what they could do better in the organization. With the UFC on the verge of bankruptcy, Dana and the Fertitta brothers swooped in, buying the organization for 2 million and investing another 44 million into it. Without these three, there would be no UFC and there is no telling if MMA would have ever taken off without them.
Las Vegas is the Best Place for MMA
After saving the UFC from shutting down, there was still the matter of where the new events would be hosted. If the UFC was going to survive, there would have to be a solid home base. Luckily, Lorenzo Fertitta was a former member of the Nevada State Athletic Commission, leading to the UFC parent company Zuffa, eventually securing sanctioning for fights in 2001.
Over the years, they have put on numerous events in Las Vegas, including some of the biggest cards in UFC history. Ask any fan and they will tell you that while UFC is constantly trying to extend its reach around the globe with events in every major country, the most important events are always in Las Vegas where Dana knows they can be handled appropriately and will go off without a hitch. It’s imaginable that by now, Dana is one of the biggest public figures in the city of Las Vegas.
The Story of Dana and Las Vegas is Ongoing
When we look back on the history of the UFC, it’s clear that without Dana White and his ties to Las Vegas, the organization almost certainly would not exist today and MMA as a whole would have suffered. Aside from UFC affairs, Dana is still quite active in Las Vegas as a whole. He is a notorious blackjack player, known for getting the walking papers several times when he was on a hot streak. This dynamic led to the infamous Palms Casino incident where Dana pulled the UFC from all events at the Palms Casino once they kicked him out for being too good at blackjack. This practice, while shady, is completely legal and casinos kick out patrons all the time for winning.
As if he just cannot resist the call of the blackjack table, there was also the much more humorous incident regarding Dana being accosted by the fighter Colby Covington who snuck up on him while playing blackjack. The scene that unfolded is both comical and strange.
Even recently, Dana appeared in the public trying to do good for Las Vegas by attempting to coax the phenomenal and recently released NFL quarterback Tom Brady to come and play for the Las Vegas Raiders. While unsuccessful, it shows that Dana is constantly putting time and energy into Las Vegas, the city that he owes everything to.