Dana White reasserts interest in purchasing NFL team

Dana White, the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) president, has reasserted his interest in purchasing a National Football League team alongside his former business partners Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta.

Lorenzo Fertitta and his brother sold their majority stake in UFC to WME-IMG, now known as Endeavor, in a $4bn deal in 2016 and the casino magnate has made it known he is looking to use that windfall to purchase an NFL team.

White remains keen to become a minority partner if such a deal happens. “My old partners the Fertitta brothers are huge [American] football and NFL guys and, yes, we’ll probably end up buying an NFL team together,” White said at the Hashtag Sports conference in New York.

White’s latest comments echo several prior public assertions of an NFL ownership interest. But the Hashtag Sports conference gave White an audience of numerous executives from within the sports industry.

In 2018, UFC signed a $1.5bn, five-year media rights deal with ESPN and White has said that every metric of the company’s business has risen since the partnership began, in large part because of ESPN’s extensive reach.

“We’re going to break the record this year for ticket sales for all time, and Conor [McGregor] and Ronda [Rousey] haven’t fought in a year,” White said. “Ratings are through the roof, international pay-per-view is bigger…everything is up.”

And following the ESPN deal – as well as new initiatives such as the opening of UFC Apex in Las Vegas and a new training facility in China – White said the series is now worth “a lot more than $4bn.”

White also confirmed that a UFC fight between singer Justin Bieber and actor Tom Cruise has an outside chance of becoming a reality. Bieber challenged Cruise to an octagon fight on Twitter in what was perceived as an elaborate joke.

“If I could make that fight happen it would be the biggest pay-per-view in the history of pay-per-view,” White said. “As crazy as it sounds [there were talks]. I was at home on a Sunday and I got a call from someone who said, ‘This could possibly happen and this could be real.’ I replied, ‘There is no way this could happen but if it does then call me back. I’m in’.

“Who wouldn’t watch it? It would be a complete trainwreck and I love it.”

UFC has long-championed its women’s fighters, with Ronda Rousey becoming one of the leading stars of the series, as well as one of the highest paid. And White says he supports the United States women’s national soccer team’s fight for equal pay with the US Soccer Federation.

“Whatever the sport is, if the women are bringing in the money, they should get paid,” White said.