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UFC president Dana White shrugged off the endles barrage of attacks from the media at the height of the COVID pandemic, telling Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Monday that his first thoughts were how to keep his business afloat and employees paid so they could support their families.
Calling COVID “the scariest thing in the history of my life” White said the mostly Las Vegas-based UFC had just finished its headquarters building with its “octagon” – and would have been well on its way to creating a scientifically-sterile “bubble” that would have protected UFC spectators and fighters – when Nevada locked down its businesses.
He said he expressed surprise at the time that Nevada – led by Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak – greatly shut the state’s commerce down — like other governors in Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Illinois, Rhode Island and White’s home state of Connecticut did.
“We were literally put in the last nails and screws in this place right when COVID hit. So it couldn’t have been more perfect if we’re actually allowed to use the arena because they shut Nevada down,” White told “Tucker Carlson Tonight.”
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“We couldn’t even do it in our own facility that we controlled and that we could have created a bubble here. But, you know, the government wouldn’t let us.”
Instead, White decided to continue to pay his employees despite the artificially-imposed inability to conduct fights and therefore commerce. Mike Tyson offered him the use of an undisclosed island, but White suggested he turned down the offer because the site lacked infrastructure.
Ultimately, White forged a deal for the use of Yas Island near Abu Dhabi. He told “Tucker Carlson Tonight” that the Emiratis went to great lengths to medically secure the “bubble” where fights took place.
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“It was really the only true bubble that existed in sports, because they brought people in the workers in the hotel, the workers in the restaurant, all the people that were as island were tested before they went there,” he explained.
“And they were there for weeks being tested regularly before we even got there. Then the people that we were bringing over, we tested, flew over on our own private plane that only we were on, got to the island. We were tested again and tested multiple times up until the event happened and then everybody would go home.”
In the United States, while most of the country was under lockdown, White said he soon heard from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who told him that he and Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry would like to host him in their state’s largest city.
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“[Curry and DeSantis] told us, ‘Come on in – we’ll host you here’,” he recalled, adding that from that point, foreign-resident fighters fought on Yas Island, and Americans in Jacksonville.
“So we were still able to run our business. Like nothing was even going on other than we didn’t have fans, we didn’t have a live gate because of them,” he said.
Those comprehensive actions to keep his business afloat angered politicians and members of the media, White added, expressing disgust at their behavior and declaring that many in the press “do nothing [and] never built anything.”
“Nobody depends on them for a paycheck. But all they do is sit back and criticize [that] I’m going to kill people and I care more about money than I do human life — I heard it all. And The New York Times, as you can imagine, was blasting me daily,” he said.
“These guys [in the media] had nothing to worry about. They were writing horror stories every day, and they were all working.”
During the interview with Tucker Carlson, White also discussed his long relationship with Donald Trump, saying how they were good friends prior to his presidency, and that the then-real estate baron was one of the first major figures to take a chance on him and the UFC early in his tenure.
“Donald Trump saw that this thing could possibly be big, plus he’s a sports guy. He loves sports and he offered us to come do the event and the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City,” he said, adding that many venues initially refused UFC overtures in its early days.
“He showed up for the first fight and stayed until the last fight,” White said, adding that he didn’t hesitate when Trump asked him to speak on his behalf at the 2016 Republican National Convention.
White said Trump explained there would be “no hard feelings” if he declined to enter the political ring, However, the UFC head honcho said, he couldn’t turn down his friend at a key time in his own life.
Source: Fox News