Recently, UFC founder Dana White sat down for an interview with Tony Robbins to discuss how he built the UFC from a $0 business into a $7 billion empire. Today, Ignitia reviews some of the interview’s key points.
Dana White Knew from a Young Age What He Wanted
At the beginning of the interview, Dana White admits he knew from a young age he was never going to go to college. Despite this, Dana claims he was very lucky, because he also knew from a young age exactly what he wanted to do: he knew he wanted to be in the fight business. Though many people doubted Dana, he knew he would be able to one day change the professional fighting scene. And Dana believed he could. He had ideas.
Taking a Career Leap of Faith
At the time however, Dana was 19 and worked as a bellman at an upscale hotel in Boston. Dana made good money, but one day it occurred to him this was not what he wanted to do with his life, so he quit and walked off the job. Reflecting back on this incident, Dana poses the question to the audience. ‘What’s the worst thing that can happen if you try?’ According to Dana, if things hadn’t worked out he could always go back to being a bellman.
A Bit of Inspiration
After quitting his job, Dana said he used to listen to Tony Robbins’ Awaken the Giant Within and Personal Power over-and-over again. According to Dana, the lessons in those works apply to everyone’s lives. Perhaps the biggest lesson Dana took from those works was his need to raise his own standards, and his need to hold himself accountable for meeting those standards.
Meeting a Mentor
At that point, Dana knew he needed to seek mentorship. Living in Boston, there was a legendary boxer and street-fighter everyone knew named, Peter Welsh. So, Dana went and sought him out. Dana had never met the man before, but when he did he told him he wanted to work with him, for free, in order to learn everything Peter had to teach. For the next three years, Dana worked for Peter for free and did everything he said. Dana learned boxing, corner work, refereeing, and even athlete management. For those three years, Dana took in everything he possibly could.
Finding a Business Partner
Eventually, Dana moved to Las Vegas. There he reconnected with an old high school friend named, Lorenzo Fertitta. Fertitta was a member of the Nevada State Athletic Commission and an executive at the Station Casino. The pair re-connected and started to train fighters. To this day the pair stayed together, and in time Fertitta would go on to become CEO of the UFC. However, when they were starting out, they needed to hustle hard.
An Opportunity Arises
At the time, the UFC already existed, but was failing. The owner at the time was a man named, Bob Meyrowitz. At the time Dana was very interested in training fighters for matches in the UFC. However, one day, while talking on the phone with Bob, bob admitted to Dana that the UFC was in desperate financial straits and he doubted he’d be able to put on one more fight.
A Rocky Start
Knowing this, Dana called Fertitta and told him about it. By now, Fertitta owned Station Casino in Las Vegas. Dana got Fertitta on the phone and convinced him they should buy the UFC. Two months later, the pair bought the UFC for $2 million. While the investment would ultimately pay off handsomely, it initially lost tons of money. Not long after buying it, the UFC had gone more than $40 million in debt. At that point, Fertitta could no longer lose money and instructed Dana to find potential buyers to unload the league on. After making all the calls he could, Dana told Fertitta he thought they’d be able to sell the UFC for somewhere between $6 million and $7 million. Fertitta slept on it. Dana says the first thing he had at that point was, ‘Man. I just blew $40 million of my friend’s money.’ Then, according to Dana, Fertitta called him the next morning and told him, ‘Fuck it. Let’s keep going.’
Having the Right Attitude
According to Dana, whenever you have a business idea there will always be naysayers. According to Dana, these people who won’t believe in you only get worse when you become a success. Dana says at that point, you have to get so into your thing that you don’t have any doubt about it working out. And timing is everything in life.
Dana White Enters the Daily Grind
At the time, the UFC basically had a monopoly on the sport. From there, Dana and Fertitta met with the states control boards of California, Nevada, New Jersey, New York and several other states that had strong fighting regulations. Dana and Fertitta saw it as their job to educate the states about the sport. One city at a time they managed to get their fights regulated. From there, they continued to get fights regulated internationally as well. Dana says at that point all he was doing was flying from city-to-city for years on end to meet with the local press and sports talk radio and TV stations to make them aware of the league and their upcoming fights. According to Dana, nothing happens overnight. You just have to keep getting up every day and keep grinding it out.
Utilizing the UFC’s Two Major Selling Points
For Dana, the league’s two biggest selling points were its live-events and the fighters themselves. According to Dana, when you meet a UFC fighter, and see how driven, intense, and exceptional they are, you instantaneously realize how impressive these people are and and can’t help but become a fan. That was the first selling point. The second, was getting people to the live-events themselves. According to Dana, if he could get someone to a live event, the sheer intensity, energy, and electricity of the atmosphere would make anyone want to experience it again. This was the second biggest selling point of the league. So, this was Dana’s goal for sponsors, TV execs, and fans alike; he knew if he could get them to their live events he would have a customer.
Fighters Choose Their Destiny
As far as the fighters are concerned, Dana says they are some of the most exceptional people you will ever meet. Dana says the most successful fighters manifest their own destinies. According to Dana, both Conor McGregor and Ronda Rousey – two of the UFC’s most successful champions of all-time – both laid out for him exactly how their careers would go before they even began. They choose to be a success. And they made their destinies happen.
Dana White on Ignoring the Haters
According to Dana, he loves when people doubt him. Dana says anything hugely positive you do in your life will immediately be surrounded by negativity. And the more successful you become the more the haters will hate you. According to Dana, he no longer reads or acknowledges any of their opinions. He does this because he has learned their opinions don’t matter. Dana says he’s learned those opinions don’t mean a thing. And the only use for them he has is to use their negativity to fuel his own rise to success. According to Dana, if in the midst of their criticisms you can remain focused on your goal, you will become a success. It’s the only way to get there.
Learning to Love Monday
To this end, Dana says he himself has heard many critics over the years criticizing the league for everything from holding too much debt, to potentially losing its television deals. To Dana, anyone who’s chasing success in order to get ‘Fuck you money’ is already in the wrong place in their life. According to Dana, there’s no such thing as ‘Fuck you money’. According to Dana, there is no amount of money that would get him to leave what he does. He loves it too much. In fact, Dana says he can no longer stand 3-day weekends. Because all he does all weekend long is look forward to getting back to the work he loves doing. Dana says he can’t wait for Monday’s to come, because he loves what he does.
Love What You Do and the Money Will Come
According to Dana, if that is not your mentality toward the work you are doing then you are in the wrong place in your life and need to be doing something different. According to Dana, if you dread Monday’s, you need to get another job immediately because you’re clearly in the wrong place. It’s as easy as that. And even though Dana sold the UFC for just over $4 billion, he made a deal with the new ownership to stay on. Because he loves what he does. In fact, the UFC just recently closed a five-year deal with ESPN for $1.5 billion. At this point, the UFC is now worth over $7 billion.
What Matter the Most in Business
Dana says he doesn’t need the money now. But he says it never was important. According to Dana, it’s all about the journey, and the people you’re doing it with, and that you’re having fun. It’s about getting up everyday and loving what you do. It’s about surrounding yourself with people who are getting up everyday and loving what they are building with you as much as you do. That you’re all working toward the same goal and you all love it – what you’re doing. That to Dana, is a very fulfilling feeling. According to Dana, once you can break out of the shitty job you don’t like doing just so you can pay your bills, it’s actually really fun. At that point you will enjoy every day of your life.
Everyone Alive is a Fighter
According to Dana, just the fact that you’re alive means you’re a fighter. According to Dana, every day is a fight just to survive. And every day you wake up the bad stuff is coming for you. It’s your job as a fighter to knock that stuff out. No matter what it is. You have to fight. And you have to keep going. Dana says when you view life this way you will start to like it. Life will seem competitive. And you will want to compete and meet all of life’s challenges and win. Dana says he loves adversity. And as an example he points to the fact that when he started out ESPN wouldn’t even meet with them. It took him 18 years to get to the point he’s at now.
Dana White on Being a Leader
According to Dana, in order to do this with your company you must be a leader. You must be able to get people to buy-in and to believe as you believe and to want what you want as badly as you do. In order to do this, according to Dana, you have to be able to talk to people and to motivate them toward what you all want. And to love it as much as you do. Dana says he wants everyone to only believe in themselves and to be themselves. He doesn’t want to act like anyone else, because it’s not authentic. He only wants you to be the one true you.
Dana White’s Two Main Points
To conclude, Dana reiterates his point of the importance of timing. He believes everything in life relies on it. However, Dana also believes you can create your own timing. And again, Dana concludes by reiterating his point, ‘What’s the worst thing that can happen if you try?’ To marry these two points, Dana concludes by stating that it’s never the right time for anything. In order to make it the right time, you must try. Go for it. If there’s something you want, go for it. Dana concludes by saying he’s living proof that it can happen.