Over the years, UFC president Dana White has had his far share of beefs with boxing promoters, memorably calling Top Rank CEO Bob Arum a “f*cking scumbag” and Golden Boy Promotion founder Oscar De La Hoya a “lying, two-faced, hypocritical sack of sh*t”, just to name a few. But don’t put Eddie Hearn on that list.
Hearn is the chairman of Matchroom Sport, a promotion founded by Hearn’s father Barry, and has promoted bouts with some of the biggest names in boxing today, including Anthony Joshua, Canelo Alvarez, Gennady Golovkin, and Oleksandr Usyk. And while many of his contemporaries don’t view Dana White in a kindly fashion, Hearn is actually quite complimentary of White.
“I’ve found him very welcoming and — respectful’s the wrong word, because he doesn’t have to be respectful to me — but I take people how they come across and how they treat me. And when I went to the UFC Performance Center, when Daniel Jacobs was training to fight Canelo, he was actually watching his son on the pads and he said, ‘Do you want to have a tour around?’ He took me over the new facility at the time that was being built,” Hearn recently said on The MMA Hour. “I think sometimes people get a bad name, bad rep, but you should always take them on face value, and I found him very welcoming.”
Hearn’s opinion on White is not just a result of their personal interactions, though. The boxing promoter has an enormous amount of respect for how White built the UFC, saying that he uses the organization as a guide post for his own promotion.
“I think he’s really good at what he does,” Hearn said. “A lot of what we do as a business follows suit from the UFC. I never mind admitting that I tell our team, watch what they’re doing. In terms of everything, from the live streams of the press conferences to the graphics, to the look and feel, the branding, everything. So I believe that I’m definitely the best promoter in boxing, but I do think Dana White is a bit of an icon in that respect.”
While White is often a lightning rod for criticism, he’s also undeniably one of the most successful promoters in sports history, having helped build the UFC into a $4 billion franchise, based in large part on the UFC’s ability to corner the market with a strong brand identity. It’s a playbook that Hearn hopes to replicate one day.
“For me, it was never about building my brand or my profile, but I’ve realized the importance of doing that at the same time, and he has built his brand and profile to a point where it’s very powerful when you are promoting to have that kind of platform,” Hearn said. “Because you can’t always rely on the power of a broadcaster and the ability of a broadcaster to promote your event. So it’s important to build your own platform.
“What he’s done in MMA is very similar to what we want to do in boxing — in many respects, not all respects — which is domination. Global domination and building a brand to a point where when you go to a new city or a new town or a new country, the credibility of a Matchroom event or an Eddie Hearn event will almost draw people to that. Not as much as the talent, but that’s where they’re so strong. When the UFC comes to London, the UFC sells out before you even know who’s on. The quality of the card, the fight has got to stand the test of time, but it’s building that brand where you just recognize the quality and you recognize that as a great night out.”