Dana White in SBJ

June 15, 2010

Dana White was interviewed for this week’s Sports Business Journal and answered various questions about the direction of the UFC and MMA in general. It’s clear the interview was designed for an audience that isn’t tremendously familiar with the sport and MMA fans are likely to have already heard these questions answered in previous interviews. Nonetheless, here’s a summary of the interview:

  • White still considers the UFC a PPV company, but noted an increasing television presence and expansion into video games and UFC Gyms as potential sources of revenue growth.
  • Nearly 44% of UFC fans are female.
  • The UFC is not a renegade company: it wants to be unique and edgy, but it’s also “running towards regulation.”
  • Canada could end up rivaling the UFC in terms of MMA market size; Mexico and the Middle East were cited as near term markets with huge potential.
  • The UFC is looking to start in China with a TUF on one of the country’s popular websites (note: Sohu.com would probably be the obvious choice, if this were to happen tomorrow).
  • White claims the bottleneck on growth is not infrastructure or hiring more people, but notes he can’t fly around to global target markets because of the company’s 36 shows per year.

Payout Perspective:

I’m not sure any of this is a surprise – especially for MMAPayout.com readers. 😉

However, I did find it interesting just how much White emphasized the female portion of the demographic. It’s likely a focus for the organization and something the marketing and sponsorship teams are actively pitching to agencies representing companies looking to buy media or other advertising.


The other interesting bit came from White’s claim that the UFC’s struggle to manage its growth is not bound by people. I disagree. As the UFC continues to expand, I think it’s going to find that there are major differences in the consumers within many markets and that individualized marketing and sponsorship tactics are going to be necessary. Those individualized plans require local market knowledge and talent.

In fact, we’ve already seen this in Germany. The UFC’s approach hasn’t worked very well and in many ways its just making people more angry – it’s not just 3-4 politicians that don’t want to see MMA in Germany, it’s a lot of people. Germany is a country in which many of its people still view combat sports through the boxing paradigm: it’s not gentlemanly to tackle an opponent, hit him while he’s down, or try to choke him. That’s a real obstacle to overcome; one that takes time and a dedicated market approach.

Furthermore, the UFC just went out and hired Tom Wright to head up UFC Canada, because it needed dedicated people in the market. Wright is now able to do what Dana and Lorenzo can’t: apply consistent pressure on the Canadian government and manage the ebb and flow of UFC news in the country.

7 Responses to “Dana White in SBJ”

  1. mmaguru on June 15th, 2010 11:47 AM

    44% is hard to believe. Based on the last event I seen live, it looked more like 75 male, 25% female. But they would have the #’s.

    I agree with your thoughts regarding international expansion and the core issues that need to be overcome for attaining success.

  2. jj on June 15th, 2010 12:18 PM

    I’m wondering where this 44% female figure came from?

    Gate admission stats?

  3. Machiel Van on June 15th, 2010 12:35 PM

    To take the 44% number seriously, I would need to know how they arrived at that number. What mediums were used to gather gender related demographic data? Without an answer to that question, it’s a hard figure to stomach. At the live MMA events I’ve been to, it wouldn’t surprise me if around 40% or so of the attendees were female, but I haven’t seen this number reflected elsewhere, especially not in any of the PPV parties I’ve been to. I would estimate the percentage to be far lower, but again, it just depends on their methods of determination.

  4. Machiel Van on June 15th, 2010 12:44 PM

    I agree with you, Kelsey. Market-specific content is the future for entertainment companies that want to be truly global. I think that the UFC will learn this, as they seem be steadfastly committed to evolving their business.

  5. Machiel Van on June 15th, 2010 12:48 PM

    “White claims the bottleneck on growth is not infrastructure or hiring more people, but notes he can’t fly around to global target markets because of the company’s 36 shows per year.”

    This attitude is extremely ironic since it comes on the heels of the announcement that the UFC hired Tom Wright and opened an office in Canada, therefore bolstering their infrastructure and hiring a new person to help facilitate the company’s growth.

  6. Ian on June 15th, 2010 4:57 PM

    I find this 44% to be way too high. An informal poll of MMA viewership amoungst people I know does not come close to reflecting this number. I would really like to know how they came up with that.

    I understand the value in presenting a diverse viewership as far as promotional opportunities go, but I don’t really think there are too many people out there believing this. This number would appear more reputable to me if some of the current sponsorship was targeted towards this female audience, but it seems to me that almost all promotions are currently geared towards the young male demographic. If this number is accurate, there is a large female market that is currently being missed by advertisers, and presents a great opportunity. I however, don’t feel that is currently the case!

  7. Brain Smasher on June 15th, 2010 9:51 PM

    It all depends on what contexts White was refering to. Using the term “fans” is misleading. Because i dont believe he is refering to just people who follow the sport. If he means people who attend the UFC live then i believe him. Just about everyone at the events has a date. Also i didnt see this much in my cheap seats in the 6 events i have been to. BUt judging by the camera shots cage side there are huge groups of often hot girls. Close to half the croud is female IMO. Dana possibley spinning that into “Fans” is him earning his money has president and promoter. Making claims like this one makes other females think the UFC is the latest trend(which probably explains the groups of hot girls cage side) it also makes the UFC appear to appeal to a more diverse group therefore broadening their potential sponsors.

    Outside of that you can look at the MMA gyms and the people who visit the MMA forums to tell that females are not even 10% of the total fanbase.

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