Infamous Winter Hill Gang leader, James “Whitey” Bulger ran the UFC out of Boston. Well, not exactly the UFC, but its president, Dana White, was pressured to hit the road.
As White told the story to Colin Cowherd on “The Herd,” he wasn’t willing to pay protection money and didn’t want to stick around to find out what his alternatives were.
A native of Connecticut, White has moved to Beantown and was running a boxing gym in South Boston. Bulger’s cronies felt he ought to pay for the privilege of doing business in their neighborhood, as is customary. And Dana White, being the champion hardass that he is, was unwilling to go into his pocket…and went to Las Vegas instead.
White told Cowherd about a visit from Bulger’s right-hand man, and a request he wasn’t willing to comply with.
“My partner and I, Peter (Welch), we ran a ‘get kids off the street’ program back there and we used to teach boxing classes, however we could make money, we made money.
So one day I was teaching a class in one of the big clubs in South Boston and these two guys walked into the class and said, ‘Hey, we need to talk to you.’ At first I’m thinking, ‘Does this guy own the club?’ and when he asked me, ‘Do you know who I am?’ that was when I realized what was going on,” White said.
“He basically said, ‘You owe us money’. It was like $2,500, which was like $25,000 to me back then, and said, ‘You owe us money.’ It was actually a guy named Kevin Weeks, who if you saw the trial he’s Whitey’s right-hand man. I’m sure he’s very prominent in the movie, but yeah basically said I owed him some money, and I didn’t pay him.
This went on for a while and one day I was at my place and I got a call and they said, ‘You owe us the money tomorrow by 1 o’clock’. I literally hung up the phone, picked up the phone and called Delta and bought a ticket to Vegas.”
Smart man, that Dana White. Faced with the old “silver or lead” proposition, he decided to beat feet, neither wanting to pay up or end up dead. “I literally left everything there. I packed a bag and left all my stuff in Boston,” White said.
White was working as the promoter for Tito Ortiz and Chuck Liddell in Las Vegas when he learned the UFC was for sale through its parent Semaphore Entertainment Group. After arranging the purchase, White has served as president since 2001.
In a certain sense, then, if Bulger’s crew hadn’t forced White out of Boston, who knows what would have happened? Perhaps he wouldn’t have joined forced with the Fertitta brothers to buy the UFC and developed it into the billion-dollar brand that it has become.
So while White has legions of detractors, and was even smeared by his own mother in a 2011 book, if he had been more of a, say, reasonable/fearful man and paid Bulger’s boys, he might still be managing boxing gyms in Boston.
Check out the clip of White telling his tale below: