On April 24, 2014, the Ultimate Fighting Championship® (UFC®) President Dana White visited the Georgetown University School of Continuing Studies’ downtown campus to speak with students about how he turned a fledgling enterprise into the shepherd of one of the fastest growing sports in the world.
The event, hosted by the Sports Industry Management Student Association (SIMSA) and the SCS Office of the Dean, provided students from all SCS programs with the opportunity to hear candid stories and best practices from a widely known and wildly successful business leader.
"At the Georgetown School of Continuing Studies, our key goal is to help students identify ways to become their most authentic selves, and that journey includes what they will do as professionals,” explained Walter Rankin, Interim Dean. “Throughout his talk, White reinforced this entrepreneurial ideal, reminding our students that their education can help them figure out their greater purpose."
‘One of Our Industry’s Most Dynamic Entrepreneurial Figures’
As UFC president, White is a key player in the international success of mixed martial arts. Along with partners Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta, White has made it his mission to bring MMA to the masses with live events and the longest-running sports reality show in history, The Ultimate Fighter®. According to the organization’s website, UFC programming is available in over 354 million homes in more than 145 countries and 19 languages. The UFC holds the distinction as the largest live Pay-Per-View event provider in the world.
“White was gracious and generous in sharing his time and his singular sports success story with our students,” said Bobby Goldwater, interim associate dean of the Sports Industry Management program. “We appreciated the opportunity to have one of our industry’s most dynamic entrepreneurial figures for a stimulating session conceived by our program’s student association.”
‘From a Failing Company to a Multi-Billion Dollar Sports Franchise’
The event began with a meet-and-greet and ended with a lively Q&A session that had the audience laughing out loud.
White began by sharing that he was “honored to be among the brightest students in the country.” He shared stories about time as an amateur boxer and bellhop in Boston, his move to Las Vegas and his decision to bring MMA to the masses. Topics included:
- The purchase of UFC when it was a struggling organization
- Initial issues with merchandise and video rights
- Getting the reality show on Spike TV
- Competition from Donald Trump, Mark Cuban and others
- Adding women fighters to the mix
- Inside details on fighter unions
- Safety, concussions and performance-enhancing drugs
- Effective use of social media
"White provided incredible insight into how he transformed the Ultimate Fighting Championship from a failing company into a multi-billion dollar sports franchise,” said Sam Yarin, program manager of the Sports Industry Management program. “This discussion touched on several key challenges sports leagues are faced with today."
Dana White’s visit was conceived and coordinated by Georgetown’s Sports Industry Management Student Association (SIMSA) and facilitated by the SCS Office of the Dean.
SIMSA’s mission is “to serve and enhance the experience of students in the program – and connect all SIM students, both past and present.” This inaugural event was well-received by the audience, all of whom cheered when Dana White said he “wished he had gone to Georgetown.” White also praised the Sports Industry Management program in particular, saying “This program is fascinating. I’m blown away by it.”
Several Georgetown students were tweeting before and after the event:
“The event was truly memorable. Dana White was extremely nice and outgoing. He interacted and took pictures with everyone including students, faculty and staff. In the short time he was here, I was able to learn so much about the business of sports and the UFC. He truly loves his job and is passionate about the UFC. I have never met a sports executive who shows so much excitement and enthusiasm for what he does,” said Ehsan (Essi) Mahmoudyeh, the former president and founder of SIMSA, who coordinated and moderated the event.
Master of Professional Studies in Sports Industry Management
Photos courtesy of Theresa Keil Photography