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UFC president Dana White usually doesn't have much time for reflection. But even he promises to savour UFC 100.

"It's blown me away, actually," he said of the interest in the landmark show. "People started asking me at UFC 92: 'What are you doing with 100, what's up with 100?' I'm like '100? I'm thinking about 93 right now. I can't even think about 100 yet."'

More than a fight card, UFC 100 has become a milestone for mixed martial arts. While the sport is still searching for mainstream acceptance in some quarters, fans see Saturday's soldout show at the Mandalay Bay Event Center in Las Vegas as a symbol of the growth and persistence of MMA's major organization.

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White expects the 11-bout card, which features two title fights, to attract a record pay-per-view audience for the UFC.

Tickets, ranging from $100 to $1,000, never really made it to the general public. The roughly 11,000 tickets were snapped up in pre-sales to the UFC Fight Club and UFC Newsletter subscribers.

They have since become even hotter commodities. StubHub is offering tickets in the upper deck from $450 up. Cageside seats are on offer at $45,000 each. General admission tickets - at $50 a pop - for a UFC 100 viewing party at the Mandalay Bay Resort Beach are now twice the price and more on the Internet.

The UFC says it received more than 300 media credential applications from North America, Latin America, Europe and Asia.

From Mexico to Inner Mongolia, the UFC boasts its UFC television programming can be seen in more than 100 countries and territories worldwide in 17 different languages.

The UFC has come a long way from its days as "the red-headed stepchild" of Zuffa Inc., according to White.

Zuffa - brothers Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta - and White purchased the company in January 2001 for $2 million in a deal that closed just three just weeks before UFC 30: The Battle on the Boardwalk in Atlantic City.

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"We ended up doing the (show) at the Trump Taj (Mahal)," White recalled in an interview with The Canadian Press. "You know how I am, you go out and start picking a fight with me, man, we're going to go at it. But Donald Trump, let me tell you what, back in those days we were out looking for venues and nobody wanted us. Nobody wanted the UFC at their venues.

"Donald Trump welcomed this thing with open arms, liked it, saw the potential. . . . I'll always respect and never say a negative thing about Donald Trump ever."

Not everyone got it. Zuffa poured more than $40 million into the business.

"I can tell you right now, the first four to five years of this thing were so unbelievably miserable, I couldn't even put it into words to you," White said.

White doesn't need any reminders of those days. His old office - "a broom closet" - was across the hall from his current one.

"The room was so tiny and there were like maps and extra furniture in there and old computers that they didn't use and stuff. That was my office the first I don't know how long, maybe the first three months at Zuffa."

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There were naysayers everywhere.

"We were looked down upon and we were the red-headed stepchild of Zuffa - 'Oh God, this thing is never going to work. They're burning all the guy's money. This was a horrible idea. They listened to Dana and all this shit,"' White said, adding: "Every one of those guys now wish they had put money into it."

White didn't want to give up on the business, but admits the red ink was talking a toll.

"I did not want to get rid of it. But what I didn't want to do either is keep losing all my friends' money, you know what I mean? These are two guys who I really care about and respect and everything else. Believe me, if you don't think I drove home every night going 'Oh my God,' man."

In 2004, there were signs of growth, but it was slow.

"The business was building. It wasn't building at a pace where you're going to get your $44 million back, you know what I mean. That's crazy big money. And Lorenzo called me one day when I was in the office and he said 'Dana, I can't do this anymore, man. I can't continue to blow all my money and my brother's money on this thing. I've got to get out of this, man. Get out on the streets and see what you can do. See how much money you can raise.'

"I got on the phone and I made calls all day. He called me back around 8 o'clock at night and he said 'What's up.' And I said I know for a fact, I can get you $4 million, maybe six, maybe seven, I don't know but four for sure. And he was silent at the other end of the phone and he says 'OK., I'll call you tomorrow.' So that night, I actually told (chief operating officer) Kirk Hendrich, I said 'Dude it's over, man. It is over and we gave it a shot and whatever.' The next day, Lorenzo called me and he was like 'Let's keep going.'

"So I was already in triple-overdrive, man, and now I was like 'Listen, there's no time for sleeping, there's no time for eating. We've got to make this thing work."'

Six months later, White and his crew came up with the idea for "The Ultimate Fighter" reality TV show, which proved in early 2005 to be the accelerant the UFC needed - even if it proved to be a hard sell at first.

"We pitched it to everybody. Everybody and their mother, man. And it didn't look like Spike (TV) was going to take it either until we offered to pay for it."

It cost $10 million to produce but the UFC hit a home run with the show, which is now filming its 10th season. "The Ultimate Fighter" has educated thousands of fans about the sport while graduating a stream of talent.

White says while he had lots to learn, he know what he was getting into when Zuffa bought the UFC from Bob Meyrowitz. And he had a vision for how a UFC broadcast should look. Some off his staff didn't share that view, however.

"So I would explain to these guys when we would have these production meetings what I wanted and they would say to me 'Yeah, we can't do that. That probably won't work.' And I would say 'I'm not asking you. I'm telling you this is what I want to do. Right?'

"So they'd argue with me and listen, there's nothing wrong with arguing with me, I've got tons of employees who argue with me and I like it. We have to challenge ideas and see if it's going to work and this and that. But at the end of the day, if I make the decision and I say we're going to do it, then we're going to do it. And they should run at this thing like they came up with the idea, OK?

"So we'd be at an event and I'd tell Lorenzo, 'Watch this. Watch what we did here.' And they wouldn't do it. This happened twice. The second time it happened, I went back to the production truck and kicked the door open and went in there and said 'What the hell just happened? Why didn't that happen?' They said 'Well...' After that event, I fired the entire production crew. And that was when I took over production and shit was going to be done the way that I wanted it done."

It's a story that speaks volumes about White. You are for him or against him. Fiercely loyal to his friends, he has a long memory when it comes to his enemies.

White, 39, talks about his current crew like family.

"Over the last nine years, seriously, and this is one of the things that I'm the most proud of, over the last nine years, I have built the most bad-ass team ever. This entire team at Zuffa, I have 110 people on two continents and it is an A-plus rock-star team.

"Do things slip through the cracks? Do we make mistakes sometimes? Absolutely. But one of the things that we do is we recover, we pick up the ball and we keep going. This thing is like a travelling circus, man. These people live on the road, we work crazy hours and everybody, everybody in this building, is just as passionate about this thing as I am."

Throw in four F-bombs and you have White in full flight.

UFC 100, meanwhile, should gross more than double what White and the Fertittas paid for the company - and that's just counting ticket sales at the event.



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