Dana White Brings UFC Back to TD Garden

This time, it's without a fight from the politicians.

Photo via Associated Press

Photo via Associated Press

Dana White’s visit to Boston this week will be very different from the last time he came to the city in 2013.

“It will be a big difference this time around compared to what happened last time with the politicians,” said White.

Back then, as he began organizing a UFC bout at the TD Garden, White, who’s president of the full-combat fighting league was met by advocates against extreme violence, including then-City Council President Stephen Murphy.

Murphy was adamant that fans under 18 shouldn’t attend UFC fights without a parent in tow, and went as far as filing an ordinance to make it happen. Ultimately, that policy never came to pass due to existing state laws in place that stipulate adolescents can attend the events as long as they have parental supervision.

This time around, however, White said he worked closely with Mayor Marty Walsh while getting ready to put on his third major event at the Garden since 2010, which takes place Sunday, January 18, and the number of seats available at the arena—much like the backlash—is almost zero.

“The mayor could not have been more awesome to us this time. He could not have been more accommodating, he could not have been more hospitable—the mayor has been amazing through this thing,” said White. “Just awesome. Anything that we needed, this guy has been fantastic to us.”

Walsh’s support has been evident as billboards and advertisements on city-owned trash compactors promoting the fight have sprouted up all over Boston, featuring photos of Irish-born, featherweight fighter Conor McGregor, the event’s main card.

“Conor is probably one of the most exciting fighters we have ever had in the UFC, and he has an entire country behind him—and a whole town, now,” said White, referencing Boston’s Irish roots. “The first time he came to Boston, the place was going crazy for him.”

Without the challenge of convincing elected leaders that underage sports fans should be allowed to enjoy the fist-to-fist combat inside the Octagon, White said his biggest concern returning to Boston was making sure he could fill seats, given that the fight falls on the same day as the AFC Championship game between the Patriots and Indianapolis Colts at Gillette Stadium.

Luckily, White said, he cleared that hurdle, too.

“Think about this: on the same day that the Patriots are playing in the AFC Championship, we are selling out the Boston Garden, and this thing is going to be beaming all over the world,” said White, adding that he “can’t wait” to spend time in the city. “We are bringing in thousands of thousands of people who are going to be staying at hotels, and eating in restaurants, and shop at the malls. We are going to have a really big economic impact on the city this weekend, on a sport that isn’t as misunderstood as it used to be.”

The positive response from both those in City Hall, as well as supporters seething to watch fighters brawl inside of a cage has White already considering his next return to the area. “Yes, I’m going to go to Boston whenever I can,” he said. “I love the city. I lived in Southie for almost 10 years.”