Remember when Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) President Dana White was adamant that mixed martial arts (MMA) would one day become "the biggest sport in the world?" That's because, "fighting is in our DNA, people get it ... and like it!"
Well, that day has yet to come and it probably won't for a very long time thanks to massive popularity of soccer (a.k.a. futbol) worldwide. In fact, MMA is not even the most popular sport in the United States, not even close, with National Football League (NFL) -- an organization White claimed is UFC's biggest competitor -- having a Kung Fu grip on millions of viewers each in-season Sunday.
However, that didn't stop White from predicting a few years ago that MMA would eventually eclipse NFL (and NBA, MLB, etc.) in one decade. On a recent appearance on 790 "The Ticket" with Dan LeBatard, the radio show host reminded White about his bold assertions, asking him how UFC 169 would fair if it went head-to-head with Super Bowl 48 (it's remotely possible), both of which take place on the first weekend of Feb. 2014.
White responded incredulously:
"Are you crazy? The Super Bowl is going to do like 120 million viewers. The day I do 120 million viewers, I don't know what I'll do. We've been here 13 years, okay? You knuckleheads. The Super Bowl will do 120 million viewers. I said eight years? You better go back an re-check it. Yeah, we're doing good, but we're not doing 120 million viewers I can promise you that. This Saturday we won't pull 120 million viewers. I promise you that one."
Yes, White said that.
In a fun bit of what LeBatard branded, "Gotcha Journalism!" he played back White's old claims, clearly establishing that his predictions for "global domination" were way, way off the mark. He has clearly back-tracked. And in his defense, NFL has about a 73-year jump on UFC.
But, then again, White is the one who made the initial claim.
Perhaps the aggressive penetration into international markets and the creation of an online digital network will get UFC closer to its ambitious goal sooner rather than later, but at this rate, White might be lucky to be alive to witness his enthusiastic vision.
It's a long way off ... if ever.