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Lesson #3: Give Them an Experience They Will Never Forget
White and his business partners, the Feretti brothers, saw potential in the UFC that few others at the time could see. But, how were they going to introduce it to the mainstream in a way that would make it catch on?
The three friends decided that if they were going to make a success of their newly acquired venture, they would have to give people something that they would never forget; they would have to give them the experience of a lifetime. “That's one of the things when you go to a UFC event live,” says White, “the energy in the place is crazy. People are there because they're passionate about it.”
It was precisely that energy that White felt was missing from his larger competitors in the boxing industry. “Boxing is a road map of what not to do,” he says. “The greedy promoters basically killed the sport by taking it off free TV.” White recalls how, as a young boy, he used to watch the likes of Riddick Bowe, Lennox Lewis, and Roy Jones Jr. on the Wide World of Sports and USA’s Tuesday Night Fights.
“I’m 37, Lorenzo’s 37. We grew up watching these fighters on [free] television,” says White. “This younger generation didn’t. The [boxing] pay-per-viewership is minimal compared to what it could be on a bigger platform.”
For White, boxing was always about the money, and never about giving customers what they really wanted. “Who really gives a bleep at the end of the day what the financials are?” says White. “I want to talk about the next fight. Who does everyone want to see fight, why do we want to see them fight?”
White is a self-proclaimed boxing fan, but says the sport has forgotten its fans. “We used to go to Tyson fights and go crazy,” says Feretti. “But if I spend $1,000 for a ringside ticket, $500 for a ringside ticket, I'm gonna show up early. And it was boring. There was nothing going on.”
UFC was going to be different, White promised himself. And, it was. Hours before a UFC fight, the ring is already packed. “We've got competitive [undercard] fights and we're feeding them video,” says White. “I used to sit at a fight and wonder what fighters are they talking about on HBO, what matchups. When you come to our fights, we pipe all of that into the arena.”
White also made his fighters accessible to the public. “You show up at a [Los Angeles] Lakers game, you'll never meet Kobe Bryant,” he says. “But when you show up to a UFC event, odds are pretty damn good that you're not only going to meet Liddell, but he's going to sign what you need signed and take a picture with you.”
UFC was going to be different than boxing because it was not going to be just about making money. “The deal-closers are the live events,” he says. “If you come to a live event, you leave that place done, you're hooked, you're in. It is the greatest live sporting event you will ever see.” White promised to give fans something they would never forget, and that was exactly what he did.
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Lesson #2: It Takes Passion to Win the Fight
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