(This story first appeared in USA TODAY.)

When Dana White and his business partners, Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta, bought the Ultimate Fighting Championship in 2001, they followed a simple formula to build their mixed martial arts empire around television.

“We basically used boxing as a model of what not to do when we built UFC,” White says. “Whatever boxing did, we did the opposite.”

So it would might come as a surprise, then, that White, who has been oft-quoted as saying boxing is a dying sport, is the brainchild and co-producer of a boxing reality show.

The eight-part series, “The Fighters,” premiers Thursday at 9 p.m. ET on the Discovery Channel. It takes place in South Boston, where White grew up boxing and once co-owned a gym. One of the show’s main characters, trainer and gym owner Peter Welch, is a longtime friend. They are trying to resuscitate boxing in the notoriously tough neighborhood.

“When I moved to Southie,” Welch says in the show’s opening, “I had to learn to fight or I had to learn to run. I learned to fight.”

White, the UFC president, is producing the show with Craig Piligian, a longtime TV producer who has created such reality hits on Discovery as American Chopper and Dirty Jobs.

People mistake him as a hater of the Sweet Science, White says, which couldn’t be further from the truth.

“I love the sport of boxing,” he told USA TODAY Sports by phone. “People always think I’m out to get boxing, or don’t like boxing. It couldn’t be any more opposite. If it wasn’t for boxing I wouldn’t be where I am today.”

White acknowledges the failure of other boxing reality series, most notably The Contenders, which ran for four seasons on NBC and ESPN. The man who helped create the UFC’s long-running reality hit, The Ultimate Fighter, was sure TV did not need another competition-based boxing show. But the sport’s “characters” have always intrigued him.

“If you go to a boxing event, it’s the same characters everywhere you go,” he says. “If you think back to the heyday of boxing, when (Mike) Tyson was coming in … All these amazing personalities, that’s what we’re going after in this thing.”

In Thursday’s first episode, characters abound. From the trainers, including Welch, and his thick South Bahston accent, and Joe Ricciardi, who sounds eerily like “Mick” from Rocky, to the boxers they are charged with getting in fighting shape — one, Anthony McKenna, 25, whose parents emigrated from Northern Ireland and who has battled alcohol and drug abuse for years; the other, Matt Phinney, 28, has been living in his car. Both fighters see this as their last chance.

“What I wanted to do was take a look inside boxing at these characters,” White said. “In reality television, we’re driven by characters. We’re driven by competition … by conflict and battle, all these things that happen.”

White, Piligian and Discovery are betting that viewers will be as absorbed by the cast of characters as they have been.

“With The Fighters we really wanted to get back to the roots of boxing in Southie, where the sport is so integral to the culture,” said Piligian. “These fighters put everything on the line, and I believe this show will breathe new life into boxing.”

Said White: “Everything I hear at Discovery, they love this show.

“(If) we get through Season One and people like it, we’re going to switch it up and start building these characters, the fighters, and create and build talent.”

Then, he says, they can think about moving to different cities such as Philadelphia, Los Angeles, even London. But for now, South Boston will get its 15 minutes of fame.

“And in a little while,” White said, “we’ll see if I was right or if I was wrong.”

view original article >>

Report here if this news is invalid.

Related News

Amanda Nunes challenges Miesha Tate for women's bantamweight title at UFC 200

  • 28 days ago
  • 4 views

Dana White said we might get a women’s title fight at UFC 200, and now we have one. Miesha Tate will defend her bantamweight title for the first time when she meets Amanda Nunes. Filed under: Feature read news >>

RFA 37 Results and Highlights: Leandro Higo and Devin Clark Take the Gold

  • 19 days ago
  • 63 views

With UFC President Dana White in attendance, Resurrection Fighting Alliance put on one of its most exciting shows ever as RFA 37 delivered six stunning finishes. read news >>

RFA 37 highlights: It was 'insanity – the whole night,' and here's why (clue: Dana White)

  • 19 days ago
  • 778 views

Friday’s RFA 37 event produced a night of knockouts and submissions. It was also an unofficial tryout for UFC contracts thanks to one special guest.Filed under: AXS TV Fights, Featured Videos, News, read news >>

Dana White on Glover Teixeira's callout of Anthony Johnson: 'I like that fight'

  • 18 days ago
  • 6 views

Glover Teixeira called out Anthony Johnson following his knockout of Rashad Evans at UFC on FOX 19. It appears he might get his wish.Filed under: News, UFC read news >>

UFC on FOX 19 Video: Dana White Backstage Interview

  • 17 days ago
  • 29 views

UFC president Dana White talks about the UFC on FOX 19 main event and co-main event bouts shortly after they happened backstage at the Amalie Arena in Tampa, Fla. on Saturday. read news >>

Dana White: ‘I Think Rashad Evans is Probably Going to Retire’

  • 16 days ago
  • 77 views

Former light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans faces some tough questions looking ahead after suffering his second consecutive loss on Saturday. read news >>

Dana White says Rose Namajunas needs another 'fight or 2' before next title shot

  • 16 days ago
  • 18 views

Pump the brakes on rushing to declare Rose Namajunas as No. 1 contender in the UFC strawweight division following her victory over Tecia Torres this past Saturday at UFC on FOX 19.Filed under: News, read news >>

Dana White Comments on Ronda Rousey's Comeback Fight, Holly Holm

  • 16 days ago
  • 39 views

UFC President Dana White confirmed Sunday that Ronda Rousey will have a chance to win back the UFC women's bantamweight title when she steps into the Octagon again. White discussed Rousey's immediate read news >>

Dana White Guarantees Ronda Rousey ‘Will Fight Whoever Has the Belt’ in UFC Return

  • 16 days ago
  • 13 views

We don't know when or where Ronda Rousey will make her UFC return, but Dana White guarantees she'll get a title shot when she does. read news >>

Dana White: Conor McGregor has been pulled from UFC 200 headliner vs. Nate Diaz

  • 15 days ago
  • 57 views

The UFC 200 main event between featherweight champion Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz is off, promotion President Dana White said today. Filed under: Featured, News, UFC read news >>