Since the original creators of the Ultimate Fighting Championship organization sold their company to Dana White and his friends, installing the man in question as president, UFC has gone from a niche series of tournaments to easily the most successful MMA promotion in the world. From the very beginning, White himself has played a huge role in the evolution, knowing exactly what parts of mixed martial arts to focus on when promoting the idea to a mass audience.
Of course, like almost any key figure in a billion dollar industry, White has also proven adept at hiding, masking, or outright ignoring any less savory elements of his business. This isn’t that easy with UFC, especially considering that as a business centered entirely around the idea of its top employees punching and/or kicking each other in the face as hard as they can, there are some pretty obvious issues with the organization even on the surface. The deeper one digs, the more glaring those problems become, yet White and his cronies have all done a great job at keeping them out of the public eye.
With the latest major UFC Pay-Per-View just around the corner, now may be as good a time as any to look at some elements of the business Dana White and his underlings have been trying to sweep under the rug. Granted, none of the fighters scheduled for UFC 222 have any particular secrets we’re aware of, aside from the fact one of them may already be thinking about Vince McMahon’s wrestling ring once he’s done with the octagon. Keep reading to find out who that is, along with 14 other shocking facts Dana White and the UFC would prefer are kept quiet forgotten.
15 Whatever Happened To The Gracie Family?
Prior to Dana White getting involved with UFC and turning virtually every fighter to appear on Pay-Per-View into a minor celebrity, the biggest superstars of UFC were all members of the Gracie family. Royce Gracie in particular was considered the top fighter around, and his brother Rorion Gracie was one of the company’s founders. In fact, all of UFC birthed out of the “Gracie Challenge,” a series of extremely high profile exhibition fights between various Gracies and people they considered their top opponents. However, in 2018, there are virtually no Gracies to be seen anywhere in the UFC empire. There are still plenty of Gracies around, and most of the kids practise some form of the Brazilian jiu-jitsu their family innovated, but none have managed to find mainstream success in MMA. Quite frankly, we’re not entirely sure what happened, aside from the Gracies moving on to other interests. However, it’s still interesting that UFC almost entirely ignores the family that built their empire, and vice versa.
14 The First Few Years Basically Had No Rules
To someone tuning in to UFC for the first time, it probably looks like the monsters fighting inside a steel cage are doing so without any regulations or restrictions whatsoever. Believe it or not, that isn’t the case, as there are actually plenty of rules all MMA fighters need to follow during each fight. When an opponent is clearly defeated, the fight must stop immediately. There are no direct shots to the back of a person’s head. Biting, eye poking, and hair pulling are all illegal, and with good reason.
Each of these rules makes perfect sense, and no one would try and refute them, if not for the fact they didn’t always exist.
For the first few years, UFC matches were “anything goes” affairs, where two dudes legitimately tried to kill one another in the octagon. Case in point: a fight between Keith Hackney and Joe Son at UFC 4 ended due to “groin strikes”— Hackney just punched Son between the legs so many damn times the man could not go on. Although this would no longer be legal, UFC obviously doesn’t like dredging up their dark origins.
13 White Defends His Fighters When He Shouldn't
Typically, when a wealthy executive hears a teenager is suing one of their top employees for attacking them at a public gym, it would be grounds for dismissal. In the very least, it’s a stern talking to and a dozen anger management classes before they’re back in the spotlight. Not so when a young man named Antonio Georgakopoulos filed charges against 38-year-old fighter Michael Bisping for that exact reason. The matter was made even more tense by the fact Georgakopoulos took his case to courts mere weeks before Bisping was scheduled to fight Georges St-Pierre at UFC 217. Perhaps because he didn’t want to put the huge fight in jeopardy, Dana White instead took Bisping’s side, calling the teenager a terrible word for “opening his mouth at the gym.” Granted, challenging a UFC fighter is not the smartest thing for a teenager to do, but an adult professional should know better than to act on the kid’s threats. His boss should also be smart enough not to basically applaud him for beating the kid up instead.
12 Fighters Are Constantly Suing White
Before we get into this one, in fairness to Dana White, just about everybody to earn more than $1 million will inevitably get sued for part of that fortune. Business owners inherently run the risk of making employees hate them, and White’s UFC has fostered a great deal of disgruntled former employees over the year. What separates these lawsuits from the usual ilk is the sheer number of sources calling UFC out for various questionable practices. Just to name a few examples, first we have Mark Hunt, still angry over the fallout of his 2016 fight against Brock Lesnar that was ruled a no contest after the WWE star tested positive for illegal substances.
Hunt believes UFC knew Lesnar would fail the test and let the fight happen anyway.
Other fighters are mad at White as well, forming a class action antitrust suit against UFC for severely underpaying its talent (more on that later). Lastly, the rapper Cam’ron is suing because allegedly UFC used his songs without asking. These are just a few examples of White’s legal woes, none of which he wants broadcast on fight week.
11 Putting Bad Spouses In The Spotlight
Despite a common misconception that domestic violence rates go up on Super Bowl Sunday, there has been no real correlation between pro sports and spousal abuse in terms fans. However, a 2015 HBO study found that MMA fighters actually do tend to beat their wives, girlfriends, or spouses at a rate twice as high as the general population. The investigation was spawned by the high profile assault of former adult actress Christy Mack at the hands of MMA fighter Jon “War Machine” Koppenhaver, and their story was merely one of many. In addition to Koppenhaver, MMA fighters including Cody East, Anthony Johnson, Thiago Silva, Travis Brown, and Jason Miller, just to name a few, all had domestic violence incidents on their record before fighting for UFC. Miller in particular noted UFC didn’t really care about his past when he was signed. Especially in the modern era of Time’s Up, this sort of quiet acceptance when it comes to domestic assault absolutely needs to stop immediately.
10 Dana Refuses To Address His Compulsive Gambling Habits
When a person has some $500 million plus in their bank account to throw around and do whatever they want with, the public at large doesn’t really have any place to judge how they choose to spend it. That said, while we respect Dana White’s choice to throw his money away at will, anyone who understands the nature of addiction should realize the fact he regularly wins and loses millions of dollars in a single night at casinos is a problem. Sometimes, he doesn’t even head to Vegas, simply staying up all night long playing online blackjack in games where a single card can be worth $1 million or more. White openly admits that with his riches, he barely cares about the money, and it’s all about the rush, which again is the sort of statement that any addiction specialist would call a severe warning sign. White’s been reasonably lucky so far, but if this behavior continues, he could one day see himself on such a massive losing streak there’s no UFC anymore when he’s done.
9 Fighters Apparently Prefer Sports Entertainment
Despite all the attention UFC fighters are getting these days, it seems like the biggest stars the organization creates can’t wait to jump ship as soon as they have the pull to control their outside opportunities. In the past decade, the two most successful MMA stars in terms of mainstream crossover appeal have been Brock Lesnar and Ronda Rousey, but you won’t see them in UFC any time soon — they’ve both decided the WWE Universe suits their interests a whole lot better.
Current UFC star Cat Zingano has made a handful of Tweets suggesting she may join them, and WWE is in turn open about going after Conor McGregor now that his time in MMA seems done.
Should these ventures all be successful, more and more UFC fighters may decide toning it down for the safer styles of WWE could bring them more money than Dana White is willing to offer. It’s unlikely anyone is all that scared about this trend, since the company still makes way more money than WWE does these days, but it’s nonetheless a noteworthy trend that UFC refuses to acknowledge.
8 Only Tip-Top Fighters Make Any Money
This list already covered the fact many former UFC stars are suing the company, but we didn’t even get into the biggest lawsuit of all yet. In 2014, former fighters including Nate Quarry, Cung Le, Jon Fitch, and many more all filed a class-action anti-trust lawsuit essentially alleging UFC had formed a monopoly over the mixed martial arts industry. On the one hand, this isn’t quite the case, as a number of competing MMA organizations including Bellator, ONE Championship, and Invicta FC all exist and receive semi-national exposure. However, the fighters definitely have a point in that UFC basically has total control in deciding how much money they earn per contest. As it would turn out, only the highest ranked top billed Pay-Per-View fighters are making significant bank.
Sure, the champions and headliners earn million-dollar purses for winning their biggest fights, but smaller competitors are apparently just scraping to get by.
Considering they’re working just as hard, and getting hit in the face even harder, maybe they deserve a little more compensation for their efforts.
7 Joe Rogan’s Powerful Advocacy
Big-name UFC fighters tend to come and go every few years, as the shelf life of someone getting hit in the face for a living can only last so long. This leaves only a few employees with over a decade of consistent employment with the company, which in turn would suggest the few who managed to stick it out so long are pretty special.
Though not an actual professional fighter, as a regular commentator for UFC since 1997, comedian Joe Rogan has been around for longer than anyone else, including Dana White himself.
Surprisingly, this hasn’t in any way affected Rogan’s love of Mary-Jane. We’re not just talking about a penchant for Mary-Jane, which Rogan highly supports legalizing nationwide. Though this performance enhancer is obviously illegal in the US, Rogan talks about it with the same excitement he shows before a big UFC fight. Chances are his boss doesn’t want him tripping too close to show time, let alone bringing it up on fight night whatsoever.
6 Cashing In On Big Names Instead Of Good Fights
In most professional sports, if a game or match is boring to watch, there’s no one to blame except the athletes involved. No one gets mad at the NFL after a blow out, because a few of them are bound to happen every season. However, if UFC promotes a fight where it looks like one competitor won’t have any chance, fans are disappointed from the start. The same is true when two fighters are booked against one another despite having no compatibility, leading to bland, slow matches where the competitors are basically waiting out the clock.
In fairness, the fans have a right to complain, since every fight is put together by either Dana White or one of his high-level executives, who know full well they’re giving fans a bad show and just don’t care.
This criticism becomes most severe when it comes to marquee matches with fighters who found fame outside of UFC like Brock Lesnar or CM Punk. Of course, Lesnar’s example proves it sometimes pays off, but Punk’s destroyed face says it all about why this is a bad idea.
5 Maybe Not The Best Influence
To UFC’s credit, the organization is doing as much as any other athletic body to ensure fighters who use performance enhancers are punished for doing so. Well, if they get caught, anyway, and even then, just for a little while. Maybe what we should say is that UFC is doing as much as any company to acknowledge the issue, albeit without doing all that much to actually slow it down. A shocking number of major UFC fighters have tested positive for PEDs of some kind, only to get suspended for a year or two, then welcomed back with open arms. Occasionally, as in the recent cases of both Jon Jones and Anderson Silva, this only leads to another failed test on the eve of their first return fight. Another big-name fighter to test positive was Brock Lesnar in 2016, yet there is already talk of inviting him back to UFC, as well. If Dana White and company was truly against fighters using PEDs, the punishments would have to become much harsher than they are.
4 Shane McMahon Once Wanted To Buy It
Truth be told, Dana White probably doesn’t think about this next one all that much except when quietly laughing himself to sleep. Even so, it’s the sort of story that could have genuinely changed the entire landscape of UFC, so it bears discussion on a list about company secrets. Apparently, when Dana White’s friends purchased UFC in 2001 and put him in charge, there was another wealthy investor at least a little bit interested in the deal: WWE owner Vince McMahon’s son, Shane McMahon. According to the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, when UFC’s original owners were looking to sell, Shane-O-Mac heavily pushed for his father to purchase the organization for cheap and let him take it into the stratosphere.
The report suggests Shane was aware legitimate MMA was about to grow more popular than his father’s sports entertainment and he wanted to be part of the explosion,
only for his dad to repeatedly shut him down until White swooped in and made it a moot point.
3 The Biggest Risk Of CTE In All Pro Sports
Ever since a brilliant doctor named Bennet Omalu discovered the disease CTE, pro sports organizations have attempted to ignore what he found. It’s hard to do this with how obvious Omalu’s conclusion seems in retrospect — getting repeatedly hit in the head and suffering repeat concussions can be seriously destructive to a person’s health later on in life. While the NFL was Omalu’s primary research subject, it needs to be said that UFC fighters are getting hit in the head far more often, more directly, and more intentionally than athletes in just about any other sport combined.
Despite this, UFC and Dana White have stood by the NFL commissioners and other sports industry bigwigs in deciding to completely ignore the problem and pretend it doesn’t exist.
Look, we get it — sending the fighters out there in helmets or headgear could take away their menace, and restricting headshots entirely would require almost every fighter to change their game significantly. That said, those two simple changes could literally save lives, and even this isn’t enough for UFC to start talking about them.
2 Dana’s Mother Seriously Hates Him
Whenever a person hits it big, they run the risk of certain family members revealing their true colors and begging for a piece of the pie. This was most certainly the case with Dana White’s mother, June White, who is shockingly open about despising her own very successful son. The enmity apparently began in childhood, when June once invited a bunch of kids into Dana’s house basically just to beat him up.
Things only got worse from there until 2011, when the family's dirty laundry became incredibly public and June released “King of MMA,” an unauthorized biography of the child she so plainly hated.
According to Dana’s mother, he completely ignores his family and refuses to help financially as they essentially struggle to get by. June also claims Dana used steroids, was inappropriate with his female talent (to say the least), and generally acted like a huge jerk his whole life. Granted, it’s unclear how much of this is true, or if June is the vindictive one. However, UFC fans would still be shocked to learn how dysfunctional his family is.
1 Joe Rogan’s Thoughts On Dana’s Issues
The risk associated with MMA fighters contracting CTE should be obvious enough, but there’s another issue related to the severe brain disease and UFC that may prove even more pressing to the industry. According to commentator Joe Rogan, who has been involved with UFC since the late '90s and is a good friend of Dana White personally, the company’s head honcho could be suffering the effects of repeat concussions himself. Prior to becoming an executive, White was also a fighter in his youth, having been heavily involved in amateur boxing.
In Rogan’s own blunt words, “Dana’s been hit in the head a lot,”
and is “notoriously susceptible to addiction” with his gambling. White is also well known for being hotheaded and impulsive, two other signs of CTE. Unfortunately, there’s no way to diagnose the disease until after a person dies, so Rogan’s theory can’t be tested. If he’s even a little bit correct, though, the ramifications on all of MMA could fast become overwhelming.