Dana White admits he endorsed Trump’s presidency because he helped UFC during dark age

Dana White’s decision to endorse Donald Trump’s presidential campaigns in 2016 and 2020 was due to the success of their prior business relationship. Speaking…

By: Karim Zidan | 1 year ago
Dana White admits he endorsed Trump’s presidency because he helped UFC during dark age
Bloody Elbow 2.0 | Anton Tabuena

Dana White’s decision to endorse Donald Trump’s presidential campaigns in 2016 and 2020 was due to the success of their prior business relationship.

Speaking on The Pivot Podcast last week, the UFC president appeared to suggest that he campaigned for Trump because of their longstanding relationship, which began when the businessman hosted UFC 31 and 32 at the Trump Taj Mahal.

“This brand was so bad, venues didn’t even want us. Arenas didn’t want us,” White told The Pivot Podcast. “We had a hard time finding venues. Trump literally called us. He said ‘Come to my place, do the event here. We’ll have you at the Trump Taj Mahal.’ We get there, greatest set up for us. Showed up at the first fight and he was there until the last fight. Both times we went there.”

At the time, the UFC was seen as illegitimate and had been relegated to small venues in Mississippi and Louisiana. Arizona senator John McCain reflected the feeling of many politicians in 1996 when he referred to MMA as “human cockfighting,” a comment that tarnished the UFC’s reputation. At its nadir, mixed martial arts (and by extension UFC) was banned in 36 states and from pay-per-view – a major source of revenue – and the promotion was desperate to build new relationships at the turn of the millennium.

By late 2001, they began hosting events in Las Vegas, which would later become the promotion’s home. While the UFC’s business relationship with Trump had already come to an end, White remained loyal to the mogul turned president.

“Everything that happened to me in my career from there on out, he’d pick up the phone and congratulate me. Or send something,” White said on The Pivot Podcast. “He’s always been a solid guy with me. So then he calls me and says he’s running for President. He said ‘If you don’t wanna do this, I completely understand, but I would be honored if you would speak at the National Republican Convention for me.’ Everyone told me not to do it… Everything this guy’s done for me, I’m gonna tell him no? That’s not me.”

White spoke at both the 2016 and 2020 Republican National Convention, as well as at several rallies along the campaign trail. He has also been involved in some of the Trump administration’s key political strategies, including the “Opening Up American Again” plan in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent lockdowns, and helped produce a UFC propaganda documentary on Trump entitled “Combatant-in-Chief.”

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About the author
Karim Zidan
Karim Zidan

Karim Zidan is a investigative reporter and feature writer focusing on the intersection of sports and politics. He has written for BloodyElbow since 2014 and has served as an associate editor since 2016. He also writes for The New York Times and The Guardian. Karim has been invited to speak about his work at numerous universities, including Princeton, and was a panelist at the South by Southwest (SXSW) film festival and the Oslo Freedom Forum. He also participated in the United Nations counter-terrorism conference in 2021. His reporting on Ramzan Kadyrov’s involvement in MMA, much of which was done for Bloody Elbow, has led to numerous award nominations, and was the basis of an award-winning HBO Real Sports documentary.

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