Dana White: UFC '100 percent' entering boxing, obtaining promoter's license

Ever since Dana White showed up to a pair of stops on the Floyd Mayweather-Conor McGregor worldwide media tour in July wearing a cryptic "Zuffa Boxing" T-shirt, the idea of the UFC's president returning to his boxing roots has been speculated. 

The idea is now much closer to becoming a reality as White told the Los Angeles Times on Tuesday he's "getting into boxing, 100 percent" and is in the process of obtaining a promoter's license. 

White, who made the reveal during a speaking engagement alongside Hollywood producer/director Peter Berg at Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach's Wild Card Boxing Gym in Los Angeles, confirmed the venture into the sweet science won't be a solo one. 

"No, no, no, I'm not leaving the UFC," White said. "I'm getting into boxing with [new UFC owner and WME-IMG head] Ari [Emanuel] and the UFC will be doing boxing, too. 

"It's still early. We're still working on it. I've got to get my [stuff] together, but I'm getting into boxing, man. It's coming."

White's history in boxing predates his involvement in mixed martial arts as a Boston-based trainer and gym owner who famously packed up and moved back to Las Vegas after a run-in with the mafia. White eventually became an MMA manager before joining best friends and casino heirs Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta -- owners of parent company Zuffa, LLC -- in their 2001 purchase of UFC. 

The Fertittas turned their $2 million purchase of UFC into a $4.025 billion sale last July to the Hollywood agency WME-IMG. White cashed in much of his ownership stake as well (reportedly to the tune of $400 million) but stayed on in his role as UFC's promotional face. 

After a record-breaking 2016, with five fights selling more than $1 million pay-per-view buys, 2017 hasn't been the brightest year for UFC in terms of buzz and PPV sales. But thanks to its involvement in the August Mayweather-McGregor boxing match, White said Saturday after UFC 217 that the promotion was enjoying "the best year by a long shot in the company's history."

Although the exact number has never been released, one has to assume UFC pocketed a huge purse for allowing McGregor to participate (while acting as the de facto co-promoter). Mayweather-McGregor produced a live gate of $55.4 million and reportedly around 4.4 million PPV buys (between $89.95 to $99.95 a pop), the second highest in both categories behind Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao in 2015. 

Mayweather and McGregor pocketed guaranteed purses of $100 million and $30 million, respectively, with those numbers expected to balloon as high as $300 million and $100 million after PPV sales. The UFC record for PPV buys is believed to be 1.65 million (McGregor-Nate Diaz II at UFC 202 in August 2016) although UFC does not publicly release figures. 

While Mayweather-McGregor was largely a financial anomaly in terms of crossover drawing power, it's an illustration regarding how far the sport can reach in comparison to MMA, which had to get White thinking. Boxing is also undergoing a renaissance comeback year in 2017.

Although White agreed, when asked by the LA Times, whether a loaded stable like Al Haymon's Premier Boxing Champions could use his frontman skills as promoter, there is no plan in place as to whether UFC will work alone or partner with an established group. Haymon, who also managers Mayweather, negotiated directly with White for the McGregor fight. 

"Al and I haven't talked about this at all," White said. "We'll see who's interested when I say, 'Let's do this.' It's harder than saying we're getting into boxing. We still have to get some homework done. I feel like I can do it better than everyone else. I love the sport.

"If you look at what we've done over the last 15 years, we're not afraid to try new things."

After White previously teased the idea of entering boxing last month, Hall of Fame boxing promoter Bob Arum of Top Rank called the move desperate, citing UFC's poor PPV sales in 2017. 

White previously attempted a boxing reality show in 2014 on the Discovery Channel called "The Fighters" which was canceled after one episode due to low ratings. 

CBS Sports Insider

Brian Campbell covers MMA, boxing and WWE. The Connecticut native joined CBS Sports in 2017 and has covered combat sports since 2010. He has written and hosted various podcasts and digital shows for ESPN... Full Bio

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