White: The UFC is not mainstream
The UFC has come a long way in the last 20 years. But it isn’t “mainstream.” At least not in the eyes of president Dana White.
To White, mainstream means you can walk down the street in any city of every country in the world and everyone there will know exactly what your brand is. The UFC has not achieved that yet – and it’s arguable the organization isn’t close.
“It takes a long time,” White said Tuesday during a conference call to promote UFC Fight For The Troops on Wednesday and UFC Fight Night: Belfort vs. Henderson on Saturday. “We’ve only been here for 13 years [as owners] and we really didn’t even start kicking until 2005, 2006.”
White told a story about sitting with his kids in seats on the 50-yard line at Gillette Stadium over the weekend to watch his New England Patriots play the Pittsburgh Steelers. He got to talking to one of the fans sitting right behind him and the fan--a 30-something man right smack in the middle of the UFC’s target demographic--had no idea what the Ultimate Fighting Championship was.
“He didn’t even know (Patriots defensive end) Chandler Jones’ brother was the champ of the UFC,” White said, referring to light heavyweight titleholder Jon Jones. “He was asking me if it was regional.”
Meanwhile, just three months ago the UFC held a huge card in Boston at TD Garden that launched FOX Sports 1.
“It’s a big world out there, man,” White said.
Results of UFC events are still not put in most major metropolitan newspapers the same way that MLB, NFL, NBA and NHL games are. The UFC isn’t covered on your local nightly news sportscast either.
Those things, White said, are also indicators that the UFC hasn’t risen to that level yet. It also means the organization still has significant growth potential – if people don’t know what it is, how can they determine whether or not they like it?
“For us to claim that we’re mainstream, we’re just not,” White said.