Your mom's worst nightmare -- brutal hand-to-hand combat in a cage -- has become the fastest growing sport in the country, dominating cable, pay-per-view and probably an arena near you. One man is responsible: a shaved-headed, bullnecked college dropout named Dana White.
In 2001, White persuaded high school buddies and casino moguls Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta to buy the floundering UFC for $2 million, make him president and give him a 10 percent ownership stake. The venture lost $40 million over the next three years before a deal with Spike TV turned the sport John McCain famously dubbed "human cockfighting," and the UFC, into a billion dollar business.
Today, MMA is one of the most watched sporting events on TV, and the UFC has been so successful that even its competitors are doing well. But no one has achieved the stature of power in the sport that White has, and no one has made more enemies doing it. Playboy sent contributing editor Kevin Cook to UFC headquarters to sit down with tough guy Dana White for the magazine.
Here are some of White's words in the September issue:
On the future of the UFC and its place among American sports: "What are the major sports in America right now? The NFL and Major League Baseball, with the NBA third. The NHL was fourth, but now we're fourth, and we're still in our infancy. Our ratings on Spike TV beat most of the major sports in our 18-to-34 demo. Last year we beat four Monday Night Football games in the demo. In eight years, the UFC will be bigger than the NFL, bigger than World Cup soccer. It will be the biggest sport in the world."
On Senator McCain's "human cockfighting" comment and how it helped the UFC:"John McCain created the UFC. All he meant was, you can't put on illegal fights; you have to be sanctioned by an athletic commission. We agreed."
On who would win in the Octagon, McCain or Obama:"I would go with Obama. He's younger. Hillary Clinton might kick the [expletive] out of both of them."
On the death of boxing:"Corruption, fragmentation and greed killed boxing. When I started with the UFC I took all the sh*t I hated about boxing and changed it."
On Dallas Maverick's owner Mark Cuban and Donald Trump's interest in MMA:"Mark Cuban's a smart guy. He's passionate about basketball, but I don't think he gives a [expletive] about mixed martial arts. He sees some quick money in it. Trump's different. I have a ton of respect for him. When the Fertittas bought the UFC, most venues wouldn't deal with us. We were outlaws. Out first event was at the Trump Taj Mahal, and Trump actually came to the fights. You'll never hear me say a bad word about Donald Trump. He can have my seats anytime."
On nearly striking a multiyear deal with HBO and why he pulled out: "I pulled the plug at the 23rd hour. HBO was [expletive] off... I would have had to sell out, literally. They would have owned the UFC... I took meetings with HBO's boxing guys. I'll tell you, if I had to hear one more time about how many [expletive] Emmys they had won, I was going to dive out the window. I said 'You won a bunch of Emmys, but I'm kicking your [expletive] on pay-per-view.'"
On the Spike TV deal that helped lead to the UFC's success: "There would probably be no UFC without The Ultimate Fighter. Spike wouldn't pay to produce it, so we had to do that ourselves. It cost $10 million. Frank and Lorenzo said, 'Okay, we're in for $44 million. Let's go another $10.' If they hadn't had the balls to do that, we wouldn't be having this interview."
On the perceived excessive violence of MMA:"People think our sport's more violent than boxing. Wrong! They're weirded out because it goes to the ground. We grew up with John Wayne movies -- you don't hit a man when he's down. It's un American! John Wayne would deck a guy, stand him back up and hit him again. So when Americans first watch UFC -- one guy's on top of the other, hitting him when he's down -- they say, 'Oh God, he can't defend himself!' It's not like that in Asia, where they've been doing martial arts since the samurai days."
On former UFC star and The Celebrity Apprentice Contestant Tito Ortiz:"That big-mouthed [expletive], that clown. Back when he had the title, he refused to fight Chuck Liddell. He sat on the sidelines for a year and a half, crying, 'Aww, I don't have any money!' So I brought him back and made him a coach on The Ultimate Fighter. That year he made more than $6 million, yet he [expletive] about me. Well, I put up with Tito's [expletive] when he was a decent fighter, but now he's not and I don't have to... Did you see what a wall flower he was on [TheCelebrity Apprentice]? The guy has no presence. He was the idiot hiding in the back. If he actually did something, people would know how stupid he is."