UFC President Dana White recently chatted with the mixed martial arts beat reporter for the Balitmore Sun, Pramit Mohapatra, about the business side of things.
Chatted is perhaps the wrong word — more like rambled.
Never at a loss for words, White touched on a number of issues such as the rising popularity of the sport, the success of the UFC, sanctioning, expansion, The Ultimate Fighter (TUF), plans for 2007 and beyond, and much, much more.
For selfish reasons, my favorite part of this interview is the potential return of the UFC to the boardwalk of Atlantic City. It's been two years since the Garden State has hosted a show, and White reassures us that he hasn't forgotten.
The interview is a long read — something you might want to bring to the crapper.
I also pulled out some interesting — and provocative — snips if you want shave off a few minutes:
On the competition:
PRIDE is who I consider the competitor.... I'm not talking about one of these little, rinky-dink upstarts. These two companies [IFL and EliteXC] you keep talking about are rinky-dink upstarts. They don't even really exist.
On buying PRIDE:
Well, I think over the last month you've seen that we're out there acquiring a few different things and obviously, we're very aggressive and have been since we bought the company and I don't plan on slowing down now. I'm looking to acquire all the best fighters in the world and make the biggest, best matches I can make for the next few years. If PRIDE is for sale, I'm interested.
On marketing UFC to women and others:
... I'm going after other demographics. Women isn't one of them. One of the things we've always said is we know what this is for -- it's for males 18-34. And if women watch, that's just gravy for us -- that's beautiful. And our female fan base has grown incredibly. But to go out and market toward women would be very expensive and not make much sense. But, I'm going after Hispanic and urban [fans].
The three [countries] we are focusing on right now are Mexico, Canada and the UK. We are going to do four or five fights this year in the UK. And then we are going to start creeping out into Europe doing fights all throughout Europe.... we're working on those deals [Canada and Mexico] as we speak and [could see both in 2007].
I want the unified rules throughout the world. The same game of soccer that they play in Japan, England, and Brazil is the same game we play here. To be a real sport that's the way it has to be.
On heading back to East Coast [Jersey]:
Soon. We're going to Columbus, Ohio. We're doing Columbus in March. Then we're doing Texas. We're really starting to travel around now, not only to the East Coast but places we've never been before. There's been no issue or specific reason [we haven't done a show in New Jersey recently] other than [that] we've just been doing a lot of shows out here [on the West Coast].
On keeping fighters humble and accessible:
... when you show up to a UFC event, odds are pretty damn good that you're not only going to meet Liddell, but he's going to sign what you need signed and take a picture with you. I'm very tight with all the guys that fight here. And we have a lot of meetings -- we get together with the fighters before they go on pay-per-view. The great thing about this sport is that we really don't have to keep too tight of a leash on these guys on being humble and being good people and being good to the fans because this sport is martial arts-based. All these guys come from martial arts which, as anybody knows, you learn a lot of respect and discipline.
On UFC 66 pay-per-view (PPV) buys:
We don't give out our pay-per-view numbers, but we were very pleased with the numbers, very pleased.
On TUF 6 and 7 in 2007:
We'll knock out season five. Then I think there's a few weeks off and we start doing season six.
On determining fighter salaries:
We determine how popular we think the guy is and obviously how many seats he can sell, and how many pay-per-views he can sell.
On favorite fighters:
There's a lot of them. To narrow that down to one -- Liddell, Matt Hughes, Georges St. Pierre. I get along really well with Tito Ortiz now. There are a lot of guys.
On Brandon Vera contract:
... Vera does have one fight left on his contract and I don't know if we will come to terms with him or not.... Vera hasn't beaten anybody even close to the caliber that Couture has beaten or faced.... I've got Vera under contract until September.
On 2006 and 2007:
It was an amazing year for us . We exceeded a lot of the goals that we had set for ourselves. It was an incredible year but you ain't seen nothing yet. Wait 'til you see 2007. We're going to blow everybody's mind again in 2007.
Don't forget to also check out the recent post about what Dana White had to say during a live chat with UFC Fight Club members.