Stephen Sylvanie / Special to the Sun
Tuesday, March 19, 2013 | 4:48 p.m.
UFC President Dana White travels the globe putting on mixed martial arts cards, frequently visiting different parts of the world in the same week. He stays in some of the best hotels and has seen more than his share of notable attractions.
But nothing beats his home of Las Vegas.
White shared that story Tuesday at Las Vegas City Hall in downtown when he was one of six announced for induction into the Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Fame. The six-person class, which features tennis legend Andre Agassi and two others credited with bringing millions annually to the Las Vegas economy through sporting events, will be honored May 31 at the Orleans Arena.
“To be inducted into the Southern Nevada Hall of Fame is a big deal for me,” White said. “I love this city, man. I say it all the time. I really do love this city. I travel all over the world, go to the coolest cities and stay in the nicest hotels and I can’t wait to get back to Las Vegas. I’m glad I grew up here and I’m glad my kids are growing up here.”
White, who is often brash and outspoken while on the promotion trail for his league, was humbled when talking about his inclusion in the hall. When his wife, Anne, dropped off their children at school today, she called to report other parents were talking about his selection.
Needless to say, it was a proud moment for the family.
“I’m blown away. We're honored,” he said. “She said everyone keeps walking up and congratulating her at the school.”
The Las Vegas-based UFC has blossomed into one of the fastest-growing sports organizations in history since Zuffa, which White is president and co-owner of the company’s assets, purchased the league in 2001. With White as its leader, and extremely popular with the league’s loyal fan base, the UFC is a worldwide brand that sets pay-per-view and box office records in the U.S, Canada, Japan, England, Brazil and other countries. It went from producing five events in 2001 to more than 30 last year.
White, who was one of Time’s most influential people of 2010, oversees the company’s more than 200 employees across three continents. And they are expanding to different parts of the world every day.
But with White, and UFC Chairman and CEO Lorenzo Fertitta, leading the way, they’ll always be based in Las Vegas. The organization is active in several charitable causes in the area, but typically doesn’t take credit for their good work.
After all, like White stressed Tuesday, he and the UFC are proud members of the community and simply doing their part.
“We are not looking for recognition,” White said. “Not only me, the Fertitta brothers, not to speak for them, but they love the city and they do a lot as far as charity. Nobody is looking for recognition. You do it because you want to do it, and we are going to continue to do it. We have so many plans and good things in store for the city of Las Vegas.”
Here is a look at the rest of the class:
• Agassi is arguably the most accomplished local athlete in any sport, winning eight major tennis championships and becoming one of the sport’s most notable figures. He’s part of several hall of fames, has won numerous championship and cash prizes, and has a long list of athletic achievements. But that’s not what makes him popular in Southern Nevada. His post-tennis mission is transforming public education and those efforts have given several Las Vegas children the chance at a better future. Agassi Prep, a the tuition-free public charter school he founded in 2001 on West Lake Mead Boulevard in one of Southern Nevada’s most at-risk neighborhoods, continues to be his biggest passion. There is also an Andre Agassi Boys & Girls Club.
• Bill Bobier is one of the most respected high school basketball coaches in Nevada history, leading Valley High to four straight state championships from 1980 to 1983. Bobier, who passed away in 2001, won 604 career games in 30 years of coaching. At Valley, he was 204-100 and coached one of Las Vegas’ top all-time players, Southern Nevada Hall of Famer and UNLV great Freddie Banks.
• If a big event has come to Southern Nevada in the past three decades, there’s a good chance Pat Christensen had a hand in making it happen. He’s been the president of Las Vegas Events since 2001, increasing the number of major events in Las Vegas from 21 in 2001 to an average of 39 the past five years. The revenue brought to Las Vegas from this events have increased from $108.9 million to an average of $285 million over the same time. Prior to joining Las Vegas Events, Christensen worked as the director of the Thomas & Mack Center, having a big hand in bringing the National Finals Rodeo to town. From 1983 to 1992 booked on average 175 events per year at the Mack and Sam Boyd Stadium, which he also helped manage. One of his biggest contributions was lobbying and overseeing a $40 million renovation to Sam Boyd Stadium in 1999, and also designing and selling the naming right at Cox Pavilion.
• Stephanie Louden was a four-time All-American golfer at Stanford and has played professionally since 2001. She’s one of the best all-time girls high school golfers in state history, winning the state championship in 1996 at Cimarron-Memorial High.
• Chris Powell has been president and general manager of the Las Vegas Motor Speedway since 1998, overseeing the biggest sports weekend in Las Vegas annually when NASCAR roars into town. Since 1998, the speedway has helped generate $2.5 billion for the local economy.