Wednesday, December 4, 2013
By Steve Craig email@example.com
Close to 18,000 fans are expected to file into Maine venues in 2013 to watch what Sen. John McCain once called "human cockfighting."
THE MAINE MAN: Dana White, who graduated from Hermon High School in 1987, helped build UFC from a struggling company with a bad reputation to one of the fastest growing promotions in sports.
Mixed martial arts fighting has come a long way since its bloody style vs. style debut in 1993 and has seen a sudden explosion of interest in Maine since legislation made the sport legal in 2011. Matt Peterson (D-Rumford), a promoter and state legislator most responsible for its rapid in-state growth, knows who to thank.
"We wouldn't even be having this conversation without Dana White, let's face it," said Peterson, co-owner of Lewiston-based New England Fights (NEF) promotion, which is planning seven fight nights of its own in Maine in 2013.
To those who know the sport on a worldwide scale, White needs no introduction.
White -- the president, CEO and promotional front man for the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) -- is in Boston for tonight's UFC Fight Night 26, and along with his international reputation brings with him a deep connection to Maine.
A 1987 graduate of Hermon High School, just outside of Bangor, he has helped turn a fiscally failing organization in a fringe sport derided for its brutality into an entertainment juggernaut that has become the global standard of a sport. White is candid, blunt and at times profanely combative. He is the de facto commissioner of the sport who uses Twitter (@danawhite) to voice opinions, wears jeans and sneakers to a press conference, and has no qualms about calling a Boston city councilor "a typical lying politician."
You want a fight?
Dana White will give you a fight.
He has elevated UFC to the major league of mixed martial arts fighting, with fighters from around the globe that have fought their way up through smaller, regional promotions like NEF. In 2012, UFC signed a seven-year television rights deal with Fox Networks that includes tonight's show at Boston's TD Garden, which is the premier live event on the new 24-hour all-sports Fox Sports1 channel.
Maine: His place to relax
While in high school White lived with his grandparents in Levant. He now has a vacation home on the same site with several additional dwellings spread over 100 acres.
"Basically my grandparents lived in a trailer on a piece of property they rented. ?I bought the whole street," White said. "I bought all the people out. I knocked on their doors and said 'I want to buy your house.' I bought the houses. Some I knocked down and others I kept, a couple of guest houses, some barns, and made it my ultimate incredible playground."
So why did a guy who has a home in Laguna Beach, Calif., and digs in Las Vegas want to build a home in Maine?
"First of all, Maine is the most beautiful state in the country. Period," White said. "The other thing is, it's the one place where I can truly relax."
White said that when he was attending Hermon he had no interest in school sports but was always interested in boxing and fighting.
"I was cool. I got in a few fights. Got into some trouble," White said.
White began his MMA odyssey shortly after high school when he went in search of a man named Peter Welch.
"He was a legendary street fighter type guy and I literally sought this guy out. He was like a (expletive) myth. Finally I caught up to him and said, 'Hi, I'm Dana White and I want to get into the fight business,' " White said. "I told him my whole (expletive) story and started training with him and boxing and fighting with him."
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