Compiled by: Efi Eqbal Images: UFC®, Getty, Nicky Almasy
Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) President, Dana White, gives travel360 the low-down on what it takes to be a mixed martial arts (MMA) champion.
What got you into boxing and later, the MMA scene?
I’ve always loved fighting, ever since I was a little kid. I liked Bruce Lee and martial arts but I fell in love with boxing. So I started to box, and then I started training fighters, before moving on to managing fighters. I’ve done just about everything you could do in the fight business. Later, I discovered jiu-jitsu and fell in love with it – that got me into mixed martial arts.
How would you brand your leadership style in the MMA and UFC business?
I try to go out and find the absolute best people who are the best at what they do. I bring them in and adapt them to our brand and my style. To be honest, once we get them up to speed, be it at PR, marketing or production, I let them do what they do, but I have daily interactions with key people. At the end of the day, what really matters are the fights, finding new talents, the live events, and the television productions. As long as all of those things are on point, then this business runs perfectly. These are the things I focus on daily with key people in the company.
How will the new partnership with AirAsia support UFC’s role in developing MMA talent in the Asian region?
One of the things that I think is important right now in Asia is awareness. AirAsia is the perfect partner to help us create a ton of awareness and right out of the gates, AirAsia is doing so much … they are doing a great job of helping us create that awareness, which leaves me to just go in there and find talent.
What are the similarities between UFC and AirAsia?
When I met Tony Fernandes, I knew he was my type of guy. We are very alike, and we have a lot of things in common – in how we started our business and how we run it. I think UFC and AirAsia are going to line up perfectly!
There are currently no Asian fighters who hold a UFC belt, which makes the search for ‘The Next UFC Asian Fighter’ all the more intense. What is your advice to Asian fighters striving for this?
The bottom line is, if you are a talented fighter and your dream is to become a world champion and fight in global pay-per-views, you have to get with the right trainers and the right people. It’s not just about the trainer and the gym, or the facility that you work out in, but the people around you who can push you and challenge you, and make you a better fighter. Sometimes, you have to get up and leave your comfort zone, and possibly leave your hometown or country to go to different places and train with the best.
There’s a growing trend of women joining the MMA scene. How does UFC support this movement?
Look at what Ronda Rousey (former UFC Women’s bantamweight champion) has been able to do – we brought Ronda in and she changed everything! If you look at our business now, people love watching the female fights, and that’s because the fighters are very talented and very technical. The women are really good and we we will continue to be supportive of this movement. It is a huge part of our business now – some of the best fighters in the world are women!
Who are the up and coming Asian MMA fighters that fans should look out for?
1) Yanan Wu – Yanan is a Chinese striker. She is a bantamweight with huge potential, and is already a star in China.
2) Xiaonan Yan – A Chinese strawweight fireball with incredible stand-up, kicks and hand speed. Another sanda (a kickboxing style practised in China)-based fighter.
3) Syuri Kondo – Undefeated Japanese female strawweight.
4) Naoki Inoue – Undefeated Japanese 20-year-old flyweight with great scrambling and submissions, and his kickboxing is also on point.
What is your favourite move in the fight?
My favourite move is the knockout! When you have two highly skilled ground fighting technicians going at it, I love a good arm bar, I love a good side choke, I love a rear naked choke – basically any type of submission that is so hard to pull off at this level. But if I had to pick one, I would go with the knockout.
There’s a lot of speculation about your return to the boxing industry. What do you hope to achieve through this and what does this mean for UFC?
I believe we can do it better. Our model is: We put on the best events with the best fighters in the world. Every fight is a great fight, I think that would be a good thing for boxing too. I am not saying that I can do it, but I am definitely going to jump in and give it a shot.
What’s the key to becoming a great fighter and an international MMA and UFC champion?
You have to be very talented… first and foremost. Second, if you have a great personality and if you’re very good at speaking to people and the media, that helps to make you a big international superstar. Keeping your head straight, never getting a big ego and always being able to listen to people and take instructions – not think that you know it all. Finally, you have to be able to work with the company – if you find it hard to work with people, then you will never be great or make a lot of money.
If Tony Fernandes were to enter the Octagon, who would you pit against him and why?
If Tony ever wanted to enter the Octagon – well, I like him very much, he’s a good guy, he’s a brilliant guy – I would talk him out of it. Tony has no business being in the Octagon!
Arm bar – An opponent’s arm is straightened out between the attacker’s thighs, before being bent at the elbow to the point of submission.
Octagon – UFC bouts take place within this eight-sided structure.
Rear naked choke – This involves securing an opponent’s back and using this advantageous position to set up a choke from the opponent’s blind spot.
Side choke – A submission hold where a person is choked using their own arm on one side, and the attacker’s arm on the other.
Stand-up – Hand-to-hand combat in a standing position.