Dana White is the president of the UFC, and is one of the most influential and well-known figures in the world of MMA. He was one of the three men that acquired the UFC back in 2001, under the Zuffa name. Along with Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta, Dana helped build the UFC into the multi-billion dollar company that it is today.
As part of the acquisition, Dana kept some equity in the UFC. So how much of the UFC does Dana own?
At the time of the UFC’s sale to WME-IMG, Dana White owned 9% of the UFC, which was worth $362 million, as the company was sold for a total of 4.025 billion. After the acquisition, Dana kept his position as the president of the company, and was given a stake in the new company, according to ESPN. We can assume that Dana is paid several millions of dollars to keep the company running.
Although Dana no longer owns any part of the UFC, there are still speculations about his salary as President, as well as if he keeps any of the company’s profit.
This article by SportsBible claims that Dana keeps 9% of the UFC’s profits for himself since the acquisition, on top of his salary. However, chances are that the writer simply confused Dana’s previous ownership percentage with this idea that Dana has a profit-sharing deal with the UFC.
I’m not saying that it’s not true, but the article does not cite any sources.
How Dana White Came To Own The UFC
So before Dana and the Fertitta brothers built the UFC into what it is now, it was owned by a company known as Semaphore Entertainment Group (SEG). SEG was owned by a man named Bob Meyrowitz, who was very influential in the production of the first UFC event.
Bob Meyrowitz (left) speaking to a young Joe Rogan in 1997.
SEG was a television partner of the company that founded the UFC (WOW Promotions) and were actually the ones who created the name of the event: The Ultimate Fighting Championship. After UFC 5, two of the founders, Art Davie and Rorion Gracie, sold their interest in the company to SEG, making SEG the new owners of the UFC.
However, the SEG struggled to keep the UFC afloat, especially after extensive work with the athletic commissions to make the events legal. SEG was close to bankruptcy, and Dana White learned that Meyrowitz was looking to sell the UFC.
Dana White contacted Lorenzo Fertitta, who was a childhood friend who was in the casino business. Lorenzo and his brother, Frank Fertitta, agreed to buy the UFC from Meyrowitz, with Dana White running the company as president.
This is the three-man team that acquired the UFC in 2001. From left to right, they are Lorenzo, Dana, and Frank.
So how much did Dana, Frank, and Lorenzo buy the UFC for?
Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta bought the UFC for a total of $2 million dollars. Dana did not put up any capital for the acquisition, but instead agreed to serve as the company president, while earning equity in the process. They created a holding company named Zuffa, of which the UFC was a subsidiary.
How Dana White Built The UFC Into What It Is Today
As soon as the UFC was acquired by Zuffa, Dana and the Fertitta brothers started working towards its success. Through their connections, they were able to get more publicity for the UFC. For example, Lorenzo Fertitta was a former commissioner of the Nevada State Athletic Commission. The UFC was sanctioned quickly after its acquisition by Zuffa, mostly thanks to Lorenzo.
Lorenzo’s ties to the NSAC helped the UFC to quickly get sanctioning for their events in Nevada.
The UFC experienced its largest pay-per-view event (at the time) at UFC 40. This was a card headlined by light-heavyweight champion Tito Ortiz, who was fighting Ken Shamrock, a former UFC tournament champion. Where previous UFC events drew average buys of around 45,000, UFC 40 did 150,000 buys.
Following the success of UFC 40, the UFC created the reality show The Ultimate Fighter, which aired on Spike TV. The show was a huge success, with the final fight between Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar drawing a lot of attention to the UFC.
With the rise of huge names such as Tito Ortiz, Georges St. Pierre, BJ Penn, and Brock Lesnar, the UFC continued to grow over the years. Eventually, the UFC purchased and merged with several major MMA promotions along the way, including WEC, Strikeforce, and Pride.
The Ultimate Fighter show was a success, bringing much viewership through television, prompting Dana White to say that it “saved the UFC”.
The end of the Zuffa era was highlighted by the rise of Ronda Rousey and Conor McGregor, both of which significantly increased UFC viewership by the general public.
The Sale Of The UFC To WME-IMG
In mid-2016, it was revealed that Zuffa was thinking about selling the UFC for about $4 billion. It was later revealed that 2015 was an all-time high in terms of revenue for the UFC, which was $609 million. With big events headlined by Ronda Rousey, and McGregor winning the featherweight title, the UFC was looking to capitalize on its best year through acquisition.
Over the years, Dana White had been paid as president of the company, but was also earning sweat equity for his work. As mentioned previously, his equity was 9% at the time of the sale.
The UFC was sold to WME-IMG, which is owned by Ari Emanuel, seen here on the far right.
Apparently, a company known as Flash Entertainment also owns a 10% stake in the UFC. Assuming the Fertitta brothers invested an equal amount of money, and that their stakes remained mostly the same since their initial acquisition, we can estimate that their shares were slightly less than 40% each. However, this could be less, depending on if other people that we don’t know about owned equity in the UFC.
After months of negotiation, and entertaining bids from major companies, the UFC announced that it was being sold to a group of investors led by WME-IMG in July 2016. The sale was completed for $4.025 billion, with Dana White remaining as president and receiving a stake in the new company. Lorenzo Fertitta also stepped down as chairman and CEO.
As of today, it is unknown how much of the UFC Dana White actually owns, as it was given to him as part of the acquisition, and was never disclosed. We can assume that it is likely less than 9%, as this was his stake in the old company, but we don’t really know, and we’re just making guesses here.
After the UFC struck a deal with ESPN, Dana White got a contract extension of seven years to remain as president of the company.
In 2019, Dana extended his contract for seven more years, meaning he’s here to stay as president until at least 2026. We can also assume he gets a hefty salary in that contract.
I hope this post brought you some insight into Dana White’s stake in the UFC, as well as his role as president. Please consider checking out similar posts in the Martial Arts History page. Thanks for reading!