Expanding His Ring In the Fight Game

UFC president Dana White is a busy man. Already overseeing the mixed martial arts company’s numerous pay-per-view events and serving as executive producer of the UFC’s competition series The Ultimate Fighter on FS1, White this past Tuesday (July 11) launched Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender series on the company’s UFC Fight Pass digital subscription service. The live weekly fight series showcases up-and-coming MMA talent.

White is also heavily involved in the promotion for the blockbuster Aug. 26 PPV boxing event featuring legendary, and famously undefeated, boxing champion Floyd Mayweather vs. UFC lightweight champion Conor McGregor. Industry observers expect the fight to match or surpass the record 4.6 million PPV buys set by the May 2015 Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao fight.

White spoke to B&C contributor R. Thomas Umstead about the big event (prior to participating in the Mayweather-McGregor four-city promotional tour last week), as well as his live MMA fight series. An edited transcript follows.

UFC already has The Ultimate Fighter, in which up-and-coming fighters com pete for a shot at a contract, so what are your plans for this show?

To be honest with you, when I got back out on the road and started looking at talent again, I loved watching young, hungry, up-and-coming talent. I like sitting there and trying to decide who I think could be the next big star, and I love providing the opportunities to do so.

You’ve brought in Snoop Dogg to call the fights on the show. What does he bring to the table?

What’s funny is me and Snoop were out in L.A. and we were talking about working together. He wants to call fights so bad, so this was the perfect opportunity to provide more options for fans. We’re going to have our guys call the fights but you can opt to listen to Snoop call the fights as well, so it’s a fun project.

You mentioned viewers will be able to opt into seeing different feeds of the show. Does offering the series on UFC Fight Pass provide opportunities to offer fans different perspectives on an event?

Absolutely. One of the things that I love about it is fans from all over the world can watch it. I don’t have to cut different TV deals for people to watch it. Everybody can watch it all over the world. For people who are members of UFC Fight Pass it’s obviously an added benefit. Do you know how many outlets including Netflix offered us big money for this show? But I love the fact that you can go and watch it whenever you want to. And by the time one of these guys fights in the UFC, over a million people have already seen them.

You also have your hands full with another big show — the Floyd Mayweather-Conor McGregor pay-per-view fight. How big is this event in your estimation?

I think it’s going to be the biggest pay-perview event ever. Everybody is giving Conor zero chance to win the fight, yet a schoolteacher that no one has ever heard of just beat Manny Pacquiao. In a fight, anything is possible, and the one thing about Conor McGregor is you know he will go after Floyd Mayweather.

Is there enough time to develop a comprehensive promotional campaign typical of a big event like this?

Yes. I think that every fight needs promotion but I think that we can get it done in the time we have.

How do you answer critics who say this fight is an abomination for both boxing and for UFC?

The thing is I’ll say what I always say: You don’t know what’s going to happen in a fight, especially when two people get in there and start throwing punches. As good as Floyd is and as hard as Conor hits, anything is possible. I welcome the critics. What makes a fight so great is all the different people talking about it, whether they’re breaking down the fight or saying that one guy doesn’t have a chance. When two men get in there, it’s all punches. Everybody has a chance.

Halfway through 2017, are you satisfied with the UFC’s PPV performance?

Absolutely. Even though we didn’t have any huge blockbuster fights at the beginning of the year after coming off the amazing year we had last year, the fights all still did very, very well.

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.