Fashionably late, just like the main events he orchestrates, the demagogue of mixed martial arts strolls into the Hecht Athletic Center after his promotional videos play on loop for a while.
Making two on-campus appearances in one day, Dana White kicked off the T.E.A.M. Initiative: Teaching Entrepreneurship to Athletes through Mentoring. The Ultimate Fighting Championship President focused his talk on personal branding, something many athletes fail to develop until it is too late, and their careers are through.
“The program that they are installing at this school is so cool,” White said. “You have a very small window of opportunity!”
T.E.A.M. gives student-athletes the unique chance to learn from those who came before, Launch Pad Director Susan Amat said.
“We will do several events per semester to make sure our student athletes have every opportunity to meet and learn from current and ex-professional atheletes what it takes to be successful,” Amat said.
Personal branding starts with a passion and a vision. An avid fight fan since childhood, White leapt on the opportunity to buy a dying brand, and in rejuvenating it, created his own.
“We didn’t panic and veer off course when things weren’t going well,” he said.
Throughout his speech, White stressed gaining and keeping a valuable resource: fans.
“It takes 13 seconds to be nice to somebody. That guy is now rooting for you,” White said.
Athletes can make themselves accessible to these fans through social networking sites like Twitter, something White strongly encouraged.
“You guys are doing exciting stuff. You aren’t Tony, who is bored on his couch,” White said. “Run yourself like a business.”
White believes athletes are often successful because of their engrained knack for competition.
“You get up every day ready to kick somebody’s [butt],” he said. “It’s about winning.”
Coming off an event in Manchester, England this past weekend and a Pay-Per-View in Las Vegas this Saturday, he is a man on the move. Last year, he spent more time in the air than on solid ground.
“The UFC is like a speeding train, and I’m not driving it,” White said.
That craziness, inherent to all professional sports, causes many to lose it all. Duane Starks, former Hurricane gridiron great, added that 60% of all NBA players file for bankruptcy of divorce within years of retirement. He, along with White and former Miami Heat player Glen Rice, is on the advisory board for T.E.A.M.
“Some of you are saying ‘I have time,’ but right now is when you start,” Starks said. “There is no time like now!”
Over 25 athletes have approached The Launch Pad about starting their own business or non-profit in the future. Others, like two-sport star Jimmy Graham, are diligently planning their futures. Graham says he has always respected White and was excited when he heard news about the talk.
“I’m becoming my own brand as we speak,” Graham said. “Owning a business is competing every day.”
That sense of a struggle empowers many to be successful, even after their playing days are behind them. White was adamant in his vision.
“Don’t ever let anybody tell you no.”
Ben Cathey may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.