Dana White details how he hired Joe Rogan to call fights for UFC, reveals he worked for free at the start

When Dana White, Lorenzo Fertitta and Frank Fertitta bought the UFC for $2 million, there was a lot of work to be done to revamp a failing product and that included the production for future broadcasts.

After the sale closed in 2001, White took over as UFC president and it was his job to resurrect the promotion, which required him to basically rebuild everything from the ground up. His first order of business was shutting down the old offices in New York before relocating the UFC to Las Vegas and that meant White had to rummage through everything left behind by the previous owners.

It turns out that trip to close down the UFC offices actually led to White hiring Joe Rogan to join the broadcast team as the lead color commentator.

“I jumped on a plane and flew out to New York and started cleaning out the old offices,” White explained on the Games with Names podcast. “I was emptying all these boxes and sending s*** to Vegas that I thought I needed to keep from the office. They had a VCR because they had f****** tapes for days. I must have watched 250, 300 tapes just to make sure it wasn’t anything [we needed]. So I popped in this tape and there was this talk show, The Keenan Ivory Wayans Show, the oldest Wayans brother had his own talk show and they had Joe Rogan on there.

“I knew Joe Rogan from Fear Factor because I would watch on TV. Joe Rogan was talking about how bad ass UFC fighters were and what they would really do to these karate guys that were in movies and s*** like that. I was like this guy knows what he’s talking about. He’s smart, he’s funny, he’s articulate. Before we bought the company, he worked for a little while for the UFC. He was a backstage interviewer but I didn’t even know that when I saw the video tape of him.”

Once White saw the tape with Rogan passionately discussing MMA fighters, he decided that was somebody who could potentially join the broadcast team for the new and improved UFC.

“I reached out to Rogan,” White explained. “At that time I think it was on the internet, I reached out to him and we started talking and I asked if he would like to work for us and be a commentator.”

It’s been well documented that the first few years the UFC was under new ownership that the organization was losing money hand over fist. The Fertitta brothers continued to sink more and more cash into the promotion but the UFC was struggling to stay afloat.

It wasn’t until 2005 when The Ultimate Fighter debuted that the UFC finally started to turn things around but in between everybody had to lend a helping hand to survive — and that included Rogan.

“So if you look at where the UFC was at that time, we were losing money like crazy,” White said. “We bought it for $2 million, which sounds like a great story now, we ended up being almost $40 million in the hole before we turned it around.

“But Joe Rogan did the first 12 or 13 shows for free. He said ‘f*** yeah, I’ll come there and do it and sit in the best seats in the house’ and everything else.”

Rogan has remained a staple on UFC broadcasts ever since and he’s still the lead color commentator on every major pay-per-view broadcast that takes place in the United States.

“Joe and I have been super close friends for a very long time,” White said. “I would do anything for Joe Rogan.”

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