Dana White wants a UFC show at $2.3 billion venue The Sphere, and it could look ‘incredible’

The Sporting Tribune's Alan Dawson caught up with Dana White to talk about the hottest new thing in Las Vegas, and the UFC boss is interested in taking an MMA event there next year.

LAS VEGAS — Look! At the rear of The Venetian! Is it an extra-solar planet? A basketball to usher in the NBA Summer League? A cute, snoozing 366-foot-tall emoji that gradually wakes up when locals make their morning commute to the strip?

It’s The Sphere! A $2.3 billion venue open for business after U2 performed in front of 15,000 fans last weekend, while a 16k resolution screen the size of three football fields beamed moving images that, at times, seemed reminiscent of the best trips acid can provide.

It is the most expensive construction in Las Vegas, beating the Allegiant Stadium — home of the Raiders.

Another way it beats the Raiders Stadium is that it may host a combat sports event sooner than Mark Davis, who is desperate to bring a big fight to his ground.

The Sporting Tribune learned earlier in the year that the Allegiant Stadium was making a play to host the huge boxing match between thunderous puncher Gervonta Davis and speed demon Ryan Garcia.

Though up to 80,000 tickets could have been sold for that kind of event at the Raiders, sales at smaller venues can exceed that due to pricing differences, with far more expensive tickets at the MGM Grand Garden Arena and the T-Mobile Arena, due to higher demand and lower supply.

While 2023 has been a banner year for boxing, and particularly boxing in Las Vegas, the Allegiant Stadium is yet to host a fight, and is not really in the conversation now to host a big bout, while The Sphere, instead, is the shiny new object everyone locally is talking about.

“I’m sure you guys that are here in Vegas, everybody was buzzing about the U2 concert on Saturday,” White told The Sporting Tribune and other reporters after the penultimate episode of the Contender Series aired Tuesday at the Apex.

“They said it was incredible,” White said, regarding the influx of positive reviews. “The guys from MSG, whom I have a great relationship with, the guys who own it, MSG does everything right.

“Usually, when a restaurant opens for the first night, hotel, it’s a s—show. There’s lots of bad things — they’re trying to figure it out.

“I haven’t heard one negative thing about the opening of The Sphere,” said White. “The exact opposite. Everybody talked about how incredible it was.”

White continued: “When you go to arenas in this city, and let’s say you own a box, or you go in a box, the food is horrendous. The food is unexplainably f—ing disgusting. Let’s just start there.

“What I heard, and I didn’t go, but what I heard is that the food was outrageously over-the-top good. Everybody’s experience getting in and out was good. What I hear is the guys at MSG couldn’t have hit a bigger home run with the opening of The Sphere.”

White credited MSG for being “the biggest and best in all the arena business.” He lauded their testicular fortitude, and said he’s determined to bring a UFC event to the building.

“The balls to open that place, and then to come in and hit a grand slam. Imagine the show I can put on, on Mexican Independence Day.

“We’ll f—ing put on an incredible show in that amazing arena for the next Mexican Independence Day, and I’m excited about it.”

White would want complete control over the graphics

UFC president Dana White at a press conference. Credit: Aaron Meullion-USA TODAY Sports

Everyone knows Las Vegas is the entertainment capital of the world.

It’s also long been called the fight capital of the world, too.

Yet, in recent years, with the championship successes of WNBA side the Aces and NHL team the Golden Knights, the popularity of the NFL’s Raiders, and the upcoming addition of the MLB team the A’s, it’s clearly become the sports capital, as well.

The Sphere may well be the future of the gig industry, a vanity project, and even an expensive advertising board (a one-day ad could scale $450,000), but it could also be the venue that brings together the world’s best musicians, and athletes, under one roof, in the same month — if not weekend.

Considering the success of U2’s show, an MMA event there could be just as exhilarating from a fan’s point of view — particularly as White told The Sporting Tribune he would “absolutely” want “100%” control over custom UFC graphics that would adorn the interior, and exterior, of the building.

“Every time we put on a production, we control, we film, we do everything A-Z,” White told us.

“You ever look at a production of ours and you have a problem with it and you think it sucks, the buck stops here [with me]. I am completely engaged with the production and we are such a well-oiled machine right now and the team we’ve built, it’s rare I pick up the red phone and I’m pissed off about something.

“If it’s something I do get mad about, you the consumer would never even notice it anyway,” he said. “But I do.”

UFC has frequently held it’s big pay-per-view shows at the T-Mobile Arena, yet Conor McGregor has spoken before about wanting to compete at the Allegiant Stadium.

For White, it’s all about “the right fight at the right time” when it comes to a stadium like that.

The UFC is more of an arena business, especially in America when fans are used to that kind of experience.

“When you think about stadiums, especially in this country, I don’t love the experience in a stadium,” White told us.

“When you go to Australia, or the UK, they’re used to watching events in a stadium. We’re used to watching in an arena.

“When you’re talking about fighting, you have a much better experience in an arena, than a stadium.”

So, yes, combat sports looks like it’s making it’s way to The Sphere.

It looks like a strange orb from another planet, which came to Earth with powers and ablities far beyond those of mortal buildings.

But … get used to it.

It’s The Sphere, defender of vibes, champion of entertainment, and a courageous fighter against the forces of status quo. It’s the Las Vegas way.