Back in 2000, Dana White and the Fertitta brothers purchased the Ultimate Fighting Championship for just 2 million dollars. 17 years later, they sold the MMA promotion in a deal worth over $4 billion.
However, it wasn’t all smooth sailing for the sharp fight entrepreneurs as, in the early days, they were literally investing every penny they had in each event they staged.
As such, if something went wrong last minute or an event had to be cancelled, the Fertitta brothers and Dana White were in jeopardy of going bust.
One such incident which almost sent the company into liquidation occurred back in 2002 at UFC 39. In those days, fighters were covered in branding as they were allowed to pursue individual sponsors. However, some rules still applied and, with the event being staged at the Monegan Sun in Connecticut, fighters were informed that Casino sponsors were forbidden.
Despite this clear instruction, Ricco Rodriguez (who was fighting in the main event against Randy Couture) almost had the whole event cancelled as he thought he could bypass the rule by getting a giant temporary tattoo on his back advertising Golden Palace online casino.
Needless to say, Dana White still does not recall the event fondly.
“Everybody knew that because we were at a casino, you couldn’t have a casino sponsor, and that’s the time that Golden Palace and all that stuff was doing that. And what does this fuckin’ idiot do? Forget a t-shirt, he goes out and tattoos it on his back. Right? He gets a tattoo,” explained White speaking on the Real Quick with Mike Swick podcast.
“So what happened was, the tribe there, the tribe said ‘we’re shutting down the show. We’re not having it.’ It was the main event. So Lorenzo (Fertitta) and I got in a room with these guys and worked it out with them but he almost shut down the show. Back in those days, a show getting shut down like that could’ve put us outta business,” said White.
“You gotta understand, when we do those things, we’re fronting all the money. We’re putting up a couple million bucks and fronting all this money to put on a show. And if these guys would’ve shut that show down, that might have been the end of us.”