Ultimate Fighting Championship president Dana White may call Las Vegas his home now, but his heart always will belong to Boston.
Years before becoming one of the most powerful figures in the rough-and-tough world of mixed martial arts, White trained and managed fighters at a South Boston gym. Judging from his sometimes abrasive — yet refreshingly honest — comments that could rival any Fenway Park heckler, it’s easy to see how his time in the Hub has influenced him.
When news of the Boston Marathon bombings reached the UFC president, it shook him on a very personal level.
“From a guy who’s walked those streets and been there at the finish line so many times, it really freaked me out,” said White. “I have a hard time talking about it.
“How cowardly and disgusting that these people, who lived in the city as long as they did, did that. To put the bag right next to kids, I don’t even like talking about it.”
White heard about the bombings while he was in a meeting with other UFC executives, one of whom was “freaking out,” according to White, because his sister was a member of the Boston Police.
White announced that he would be flying straight to Boston right after UFC 159 in Newark April 27, vowing that the UFC and broadcast partner Fox would “write some checks”.
“Yeah, I brought checks and I got money,” White said. “The UFC donated, I donated personally, the Fertitta brothers [who own UFC] donated personally, and Fox donated. I was really happy about that.”
In addition to making donations to those affected and the One Fund, White had hoped to meet with some of the bombing victims face to face. However, after looking into the situation, the UFC president decided to take a subtler approach.
“People are still hurting,” said White. “When I say that, I don’t mean physically. People still need time. I got money that we are donating for people, but I’m backing off on the whole meeting people. Even Mayor Menino is still visiting families.
“People are really emotionally trying to deal with what’s going on, so I backed off a bit.”
White will return to Boston Aug. 17 when the UFC comes to town to launch the new Fox Sports 1 network. While no plans for a tribute to the Marathon victims have been made as yet, he hopes the UFC event will provide energy in a busy weekend on the local sports scene.Matt Juul can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.