Dana White’s Run-In With the Mob Helped to Jump-Start the UFC

The UFC has had a long and interesting history. While Dana White did not create the UFC, he did help turn it into what it is today. For example, without White, who’s the current president of the UFC, Joe Rogan may not be calling fights for the UFC. White’s relationship with the UFC is a long and interesting one, too, and just like the UFC’s story, White’s story before he joined the UFC and became a celebrity is just as interesting as everything else. For instance, before Dana White even dreamed of running the UFC, he was running away from the Boston mob. 

Dana White’s life in Boston

White has always been a fan of fights, and when he was working as a bellhop, he and the other bellhops would get into fights with one another just for fun. This love for fighting became his real job since he started pursuing boxing in any way that he could. 

One of those ways was by managing and training people in boxing gyms, but this caught the mob’s attention. Two henchmen who were working for Whitey Bulger’s mob tried to shake White down, according to USA Today. This was a classic tactic that many small businesses experienced, and they wanted $2,500 from White. 

Since White was so young, he didn’t have the money. This was obviously a problem. 

Why Dana White went to Vegas

UFC President Dana White attends the press conference after the UFC Fight Night event at Shenzhen Universiade Sports Centre
Dana White | Zhe Ji/Getty Images

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At first, White avoided paying up, and this worked for a while. However, one night, the mob called him at home and said that he needed to pay them tomorrow, and this was the straw that broke the camel’s back. White probably knew that this was an ultimatum, and if he didn’t pay them the next day, they’d actually do something to him.

So, as USA Today wrote, he hung up on the mob and took the first flight out of Boston to Vegas. There, in Vegas, he kept working in the boxing business, but eventually, something new caught his eye. That was the UFC, which was a far less professional organization than it currently is. Politicians wanted to ban the UFC, and that led to the UFC suffering a lot of financial issues. 

By a stroke of luck, while in Vegas, White met up with some childhood friends, the Fertitta brothers. The Fertitta brothers were doing well for themselves, and after rekindling their relationship, they agreed that they would do business together in the future. That chance came when White realized that the UFC was for sale, and so he and the Fertitta brothers jumped on the opportunity and bought the UFC.

How he shaped the UFC today 

As USA Today reported, Bulger died in prison in 2018. In the meanwhile, White has managed to turn the UFC from a struggling organization that was almost banned into one of the top sports leagues in the world. 

The main thing that White did was professionalize the UFC, and he did that by cementing down rules as well as enforcing them. Unlike older UFC events, there are many moves that aren’t allowed anymore, and the UFC has also started cracking down on steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs. On top of that, the UFC has also changed the look of the sport, literally. 

Thanks to the UFC’s Reebok deal, the clothes that fighters wear look better and more professional than before. That said, another way that White has helped legitimize the UFC has been by attracting celebrities to promote the events. Politicians tried to ban the UFC in the past, but now, many politicians not only watch the UFC but some even attend the events. Thanks to these efforts, the UFC is not only a massive organization, but White can also host events in Boston when he wants to.