Other than light heavyweight champion Jon Jones, UFC president Dana White makes no bones about it. He is the figurehead of an international talent agency focused on locating, developing and promoting athletic superstars.
Sure, the actual sport of MMA plays a crucial role in this. It is a fast-growing sport thanks to White and his colleagues and unlike boxing, it is untainted by a long legacy of corruption and foul play. The sport is exciting and unpredictable, giving adrenalin junkies and excitement addicts their fix of blood, sweat and cheers.
White and his minions have found a way to market a ruthless brand of live competition to mainstream audiences in spite of the innate ugliness at the core of the sport. They turned crude brutes like Chuck Liddell and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson into household names.
The UFC is currently riding high on their latest superstar creation, Ronda Rousey. When she isn’t flinging other girls across the Octagon, she is on movie sets cultivating an action star career that just might catapult her and her winsome persona to superstardom.
White’s rules are simple: put on a show, a display of erratic, gallivanting, animalistic behavior. Spit forth a litany vicious trash talk while executing flashy maneuvers or go home. If you are boring, you are gone. A couple of losses and subpar fights without much in the way of fireworks, and to the chopping block you will go.
Just ask Jake Shields, who in spite of an impressive skillset, was recently cut after a loss to Hector Lombard. White’s criteria for signing fighters and upholding contracts are a brutal and ruthless as the tenets of the sport itself. Drop your guard and get knocked out, go trudging into the cage like you didn’t get enough sleep, and you’ll have plenty of time for snoozing when you find yourself out of a job.
From a spectator standpoint, the formula works like magic, making for entertainment that is consistently electric, magnetic and infectious. It a reassuring thing for people like Rousey, who can always go back to the Octagon if her movies bomb, and a guarantee for Joe Viewer that paying to see a UFC show will almost always be worthwhile.