Dana White made some bold predictions in 2009 about the UFC’s potential for growth across the globe over the next ten years. As all great leaders do, he saw a bright future down a long road. Let’s see how prescient he was. Let us look back to what White had to say back then about the future — AKA our present.
According to an article in the Las Vegas Sun newspaper, White said:
“I always say in the next 10 years this sport is going to be the biggest thing in the world. But as fast as we’re growing now, we might be doing it in three years.”
The article in the Sun, written by Andy Samuelson, was published on Saturday, July 11th, 2009 — the morning of UFC 100. As we approach UFC 250 on June 6th, headlined by a title fight in the women’s featherweight division with Felicia Spencer taking on the Champion, Amanda Nunes.
For perspective, in 2009, the UFC was still riding high on a wave of momentum from the hugely successful Ultimate Fighter reality show, which began in 2005. Season 1 culminating with the epic fight between Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar on The Ultimate Fighter Finale.
Keep in mind, White and the Fertitta brothers purchased the UFC in 2001 for 2 million dollars. According to Samuelson’s article, the UFC, was valued by Forbes at 1 billion dollars just before the recession in 2008. Considering how far they’d come from 2001, it’s easy to see why Dana thought the sky was the limit in 2009.
The upward trajectory has continued since 2009. There were no women’s divisions, much less, Ronda Rousey, doing top-ten all-time PPV numbers, and Conor McGregor was fighting in the MMA minor leagues of Dublin, Ireland. UFC 100, headlined by a heavyweight title fight between Frank Mir and Brock Lesnar. Now, here we are roughly two-weeks out from UFC 250 headlined by Nunes defending her title against former Invicta FC Champion, Spencer.
The UFC may not be the number one sport on the planet, like White, predicted, but mixed martial arts as a whole has grown globally since 2009. They have put on shows in China and Abu Dhabi. A rising tide raises all ships, and here we are in 2020 with several major MMA promotions in the top 10 of online viewership for all sports.
According to Tubular Labs, a leading independent global data and online video analytics provider: One Championship is ranked # 4 with a total online viewership of 5.6 billion trailing only the WWE, NBA, and NFL. Right behind One, in the 5th spot, the UFC, with 3.8 billion online viewers.
White will go down as one of the greatest promoters in the history of sports. The UFC may not be number one yet. However, they have surpassed boxing in PPVs, become the first MMA promotion covered by a major network, at Fox. Now, they are in the early stages of a partnership with ESPN, and the sky still appears to be the limit.