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“And then you end up finding out later that Whitey was in with the FBI and knew anybody that would call the police on him,” explains UFC president Dana White as an awkwardness soon blanketed the atmosphere during a December 31, 2021 THE FIGHT with Teddy Atlas YouTube video titled, “Dana White on Fleeing Boston with UFC due to Mafia, Whitey Bulger crew.”

“For the fans out there that are obviously pretty happy that you got into the sport,” explains Atlas, “the UFC sport, over 20-years ago they probably in some very strange way without realizing it, need to be a little, maybe thankful to a mobster named Whitey Bulger. Can you... I don’t have to say anything more.

“Obviously after that you left Boston, you were living up in Boston and you moved to Vegas where you wound up being, well, being who you are and created what you created. Because you did create it, you did come up with the idea and bring it to the Fertitta brothers,” explains Atlas. “And you deserve credit for that, but can you talk about that a little bit? About Whitey Bulger?”

“Yeah, you know everybody says it was Whitey,” explains White. “It wasn’t him, it was his crew.

“So, you know, Boston and boxing and everything that happened along the way is all part of the story of what led me here,” continued White. “And you know, I wouldn’t change any of it. It was all … incredible actually.

“Boston is a unique, crazy place. Especially in the f***ing ‘80s man. Boston in the ‘80s was a very unique place. And yeah, I mean, I lived right in the heart of Southie," explains White. "And I lived there for years and I’ve never seen those guys, I didn’t know what they looked like, I didn’t, you know … but you know who runs shit in that town. But I’ve never seen them until the day they walked into the gym and approached me.”

“You also knew just from reputation that they weren’t clowning around, that they would actually do something,” interjects co-host Ken Rideout.

“One-million percent,” conceded White. “You’re damn right they do. Yeah, those were dudes and a time and place that you didn’t f*** with. You, you know, got that Delta plane ticket to Vegas.”

“Well, that’s the story,” quips Atlas in refocusing the discussion at hand. “Could, can you just elaborate on it just a little bit? So the fans... because they hear us talking around it but a lot of fans out there won’t know exactly, you know, what happened and what led you to Vegas and exactly the phone call and the money you owed them?”

“Yeah,” explains White. “So these guys rolled up on me one day at the gym and basically told me that I owed them money and … you know, they're, I said, you know, it’s like $1500 bucks, $2500 bucks, whatever the number was at the time. But you might as well (have) asked me for $25,000.

“But I didn’t have it. And they said, ‘Get it from your f***ing girlfriend.’ They knew I had a girlfriend. So, yeah, she doesn’t have it either,” White explained. “So, I just sort of blew it off and you know, live my life, doing my thing. And then long story short, one day, I got a phone call at my house and they’re basically like, ‘You owe some money by tomorrow at 1 O’clock.’ I said, ‘Or what?’

Or you’re going to find out," said White in relaying the message sent by the Whitey Bulger crew. "So, I literally hung up the phone..."

“Hello, Delta?” interjects Atlas as he jokingly mimics holding a phone to his ear.

“That’s exactly what I did,” admits White. “I hung up, picked the bag up and got a one way flight to Vegas.”

“For people that don’t know,” explains Ken Rideout, “back in the ‘70s and ‘80s in Charlestown, in South Boston, they had like a series of unsolved murders where guys would walk into a bar full of people, shoot someone dead, the cops show up, ask 200 people in the bar what happened and every single person says they were in the bathroom. And it was like the unsolved murders, like the big highest per capita murder (rate) in the country at the time. It was like all Irish gangland slayings.”

“And then you knew you couldn’t call the police,” added White. “It was like the unwritten law that you couldn’t call the police. And then you end up finding out later that Whitey was in with the FBI and knew anybody that would call the police on him.”

Whether White fled Boston over a boxing debt or was the innocent victim of a mafia shakedown, upon arriving in Las Vegas it wouldn’t be long before he met up with the future owners of the UFC, Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta, in many ways jumping from the frying pan to the fire so to speak.

“Ironically, many folks seem to remember mob rule under Maceo-Fertitta control in Galveston as very safe,” writes Rich Bergeron in his February 3, 2009 BleacherReport.com article titled, “The Real Story Behind the UFC’s Royal Family.”

According to the report, “The same sort of 'Mafia-nostalgia' exists in Vegas these days since corporate control has taken the ‘family’ out of many local businesses, in more ways than one.”

In what appears to be a developing trend of sorts, Vegas, like Boston, is no stranger to organized crime figures and strong arm tactics. A town practically built by the mob, a more sophisticated kind of white collar crime exists in Sin City where the establishment has all of the connections necessary to create as much red tape and legal wrangling as needed in order to socially engineer business into whatever direction that they see fit.  

“Zuffa, the parent company of the UFC, has formally requested that CNBC air a retraction concerning ‘misstatements and inaccuracies’ regarding the Zuffa owners’ purchase of the UFC brand and Lorenzo Fertitta’s conduct as an NSAC commissioner,” writes MMAFighting.com in their January 17, 2008 article titled, “Zuffa seeks retraction of statements by former UFC owner.”

“We went out there [to Nevada], it looked like we had the votes,” explains the former owner of the UFC Bob Meyrowitz. “We were told that we did, and about midnight I got a phone call that one of the commissioners had changed his mind? And it turns out that commissioner was Lorenzo Fertitta, that he had changed his mind and that we wouldn’t be able to get approval.”

Later, “Zuffa, led by siblings Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta purchased the failing fight promotion for just $2 million,” writes Jonathan Snowden in a July 11, 2016 BleacherReport.com article titled, “For Dana White and Fertittas, UFC Sale Leaves Behind Complex Legacy.”

With Dana White fleeing the East Coast for the relative safety of Sin City, bringing a taste of Boston with him along the way as he subsequently introduced the idea of acquiring the Ultimate Fighting Championship to the Fertitta brothers; it’s worth revisiting the exact circumstances surrounding the Zuffa acquisition of the promotion in light of everything that we've learned so far. In what could easily be described as opportunistic to say the least, no matter which side of the story that you fall on, a mountain of red tape seems to have been created which ultimately culminated in the previous owners hand being forced into relinquishing control of the organization.

"This is a mafia, the UFC,” explains former UFC middleweight champion Luke Rockhold in an August 18, 2022 MMAFighting.com article titled, “Luke Rockhold on ‘mafia’ UFC: ‘When you lose your leverage, these people try to step on you.”

"There’s no rhyme or reason in this game,” said Rockhold. “And when you lose your leverage, these people try to step on you, and then you just fight back, and it’s a constant fight. It’s annoying. It’s f***ing sick, it’s disgusting. It needs (to) change and I’m not scared to say it.”

Dancing around the idea of consequences for speaking out against the promotion, a culture of silence exists within mixed martial arts where journalists can be denied access and fighters are released, benched indefinitely or even thrown to the wolves should they cross the promotional line. Indeed, saying the wrong thing in mixed martial arts can lead to more questions than answers as UFC fighter Mounir Lazzez found out earlier this year following his performance at UFC Vegas 51.

“’I would love to thank my coaches and my brother Daniel Kinahan,’ Lazzez said in a post-fight interview on the ESPN broadcast. ‘Without him, I would never be the man who I am today and my career at this point. Thanks a lot,’” writes Ethan Sears in his April 17, 2022 NYPost.com article by titled, “UFC’s Mounir Lazzez thanks reputed Irish mob boss US put $5M bounty on."

“Asked to clarify the comments in a press conference,” according to the report, “Lazzez said he was unaware of the allegations against Kinahan, which include running one of the world’s biggest cartels, drug trafficking, money laundering and an alleged gang war in Dublin and Spain that has resulted in 18 deaths. Kinahan has been a large figure in combat sports, as he founded MTK Global, a boxing management company.”

For those paying attention, following a shakedown by the Irish mob in Boston, UFC president Dana White is said to have purchased a one way ticket to Vegas where he would subsequently go on to meet the future owners of the UFC, Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta, themselves hailing from a family out Galveston, Texas where “mob rule” is remembered as relatively safe. As fate would have it, they would then go on to collectively build a combat sports empire together which is described by their own fighters as a mafia and some have even went as far as to thank “reputed Irish mob bosses” for where they are today in mixed martial arts. With this story encapsulating everything from mafia shakedowns and strong arm tactics to drug trafficking and Irish gangland slayings, the MMA Press Room wouldn't blame you for noticing the uneasiness that seemed to permeate the atmosphere upon discovery “that Whitey was in with the FBI and knew anybody that would call the police on him.”