Shortly after Tuesday’s high-energy news conference to promote UFC 205 in New York City, Dana White had a quiet moment to reflect on what just transpired.
“Today’s press conference, when that curtain rolled up, you know, and everybody was going crazy, it was awesome,” the UFC president said backstage Tuesday at The Theater at Madison Square Garden. “This was just 1,500 people or something. Imagine MSG when that place is packed and these fights start rolling out. It’s gonna be madness.”
If the raucous crowd Tuesday — 46 days shy of the UFC’s first fight card in New York City — provides any indication of what will transpire on Nov. 12 when more than 20,000 fans are in attendance, please make sure to upgrade those data plans on your smart devices to consume the craziness that will flood internets and social media.
But for White, Tuesday evening was something of a milestone. This was the first UFC press event in New York City to promote a fight, get this, in New York City.
It took eight years for New York State to overturn its ban on professional mixed martial arts, a law enacted in 1997 when the sport had no guidelines, no official set of rules, no weight classes and no oversight or regulation by state athletic commissions.
In that time, White has held many a media event in New York. From Radio City Music Hall to the Beacon Theater to elsewhere across the Big Apple, they all were to promote events in other cities and in some cases other countries. And he always was asked about when the sport would become legal in New York.
Not this time.
“People have been waiting for New York for so long, and I’ve been talking [expletive] for so long that I was going to bring a [expletive] card here, so everybody was kind of speculating and waiting to see what would happen,” White said. “It finally came together right before the press conference.”
UFC 205 features three title fights, four current champions, four former champions, four New Yorkers, 13 fights in total and one Conor McGregor, the biggest star in the sport.
Of course, this card has to stay intact. White, his staff, the fighters and MMA fans, are no stranger to changes to fight cards because of injury, positive tests for banned substances or other reasons. Some of those changes can be attended to with enough time, and others happen within days of the fight and require a miracle or two to sort out, if at all.
“If something falls off, we’re still in a good spot, but I would love this card to stay the way it is right now,” White said. “When I want to deliver and I say we’re going to go into New York and we’re going to make it big, I kept pushing and pushing and pushing and pushing and pushing and adding fights. You start getting pushback from the bean counters that work for us, like, ‘Wait a minute, there’s way too much money on this card.’ I don’t give a [expletive]. I want people to remember the first time we rolled into MSG.”