Dana White: President or Controversy Marketing Mastermind?

If you keep up with sports, you are probably familiar with not only the result of UFC’s most viewed Pay-Per-View to date, but also the controversy surrounding the buildup and post-fight antics that took place. After defeating Conor McGregor convincingly in the fourth round, Khabib Nurmagomedov jumped out of the octagon to fight Dillon Danis, a member of Conor’s corner. Following the ambush, chaos broke out in the octagon, with members of both teams fighting each other. Immediately, Dana White condemned Khabib’s actions. However, beneath the surface he is surely drooling at the entire situation.

Dana White, the UFC’s President, is paramount to setting up fights, promoting cards, and resolving disputes that arise when things take a turn. Very simply put, he is in charge of maximizing the UFC’s profits. This makes it hard to believe that he didn’t want all hell to break loose at UFC 229. During the buildup of the fight, White used clips of Conor McGregor smashing a bus with active UFC fighters on it. While White condemned these actions verbally, he “punished” Conor with a slap on the wrist and an opportunity to fight Khabib in what became UFC’s biggest matchup to date.

This makes it hard to imagine that White is actually going to punish Khabib for his naughty post-fight behavior. Even though it isn’t a good look for the sport from a purist’s perspective, it will absolutely generate interest in future fights for both parties, therefore increasing PPV revenue and lining the wallets of everyone involved. This is why White has no incentive to actually punish his fighters for stepping out of line. It’s why Jon Jones, a multiple-time offender of the USADA’s substance policy, is being suspended for a laughable 15 months. Although the USADA and UFC are separate entities, it is indisputable that they both work in the other’s best interest.

As long as it increases viewership, Dana White will have no problem rewarding fighters for their criminal behavior, whether that be assault or use of banned substances. He has mastered the art of marketing his fighters’ worst behavior in a way that generates interest in mixed martial arts. White’s use of criminal behavior in promos is no doubt clever, but begs the question: what is the UFC’s true and primary purpose? To entertain, or to demonstrate the most elite fighters in the world. The real answer is somewhere between the two, but lately has been drifting more and more towards the former. And why stop? UFC 229 is tracking at about 2.5 million PPV sales, almost 1 million above the previous maximum. And if you don’t believe that the promos are this blatant, watch them and let me know what you think.

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Daniel Teeling

One thought on “Dana White: President or Controversy Marketing Mastermind?

  1. Yeah you bring up a good point. Any random person attacking a bunch of people would have severe ramifications. For some reason I always felt like things that happen at professional sports events should be dealt with differently. Not a very convincing argument by me, but its all I got. Punches are thrown in the NBA or NFL as well which is assault, but it feels different. It probably isn’t different however and should be dealt with.

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