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A cocaine scandal that rocked the foundation of ESPN five years ago ultimately led to a HUGE windfall for the UFC … this according to Dana White.
The boss of the fighting org. spelled out the wild tale in an interview with Grant Cardone this month … insisting it was all “a true story.”
White explained that back in 2017, the UFC’s deal with Fox was running out … and when they had initially turned to ESPN about consummating a new pact — the org. wasn’t interested.
“You ever hear of John Skipper?” White asked Cardone during the sit-down chat. “John Skipper ran ESPN. Now, I think he runs DAZN. Runs ESPN, beloved, looks like the squarest dude on the planet.”
“Older guy,” White continued. “Hates UFC. Hates it. Hates UFC. Big soccer guy. For whatever reason, different people like different things. And I’m not s***ing on John Skipper. But this is a fact, this happened and this is a true story.”
White says Skipper essentially blocked talks on a deal from ever going through … but suddenly, out of nowhere, the ESPN prez announced his resignation.
At the time, Skipper said it was due to a struggle with “a substance addiction.” He later revealed in a 2018 interview with The Hollywood Reporter that he had been a user of cocaine, and that “someone from whom I bought cocaine attempted to extort me.”
“They threatened me, and I understood immediately that threat put me and my family at risk, and this exposure would put my professional life at risk as well,” Skipper said. “I foreclosed that possibility by disclosing the details to my family, and then when I discussed it with Bob, he and I agreed that I had placed the company in an untenable position and as a result, I should resign.”
White said that decision paved the way for a massive ESPN-UFC agreement … that’s now taken his company to new heights.
“John Skipper’s cocaine dealer is gonna rat him out,” White said. “So he has to tell Disney ‘My cocaine dealer is gonna go public’ or whatever, so he has to step down from ESPN, right at the time we’re trying to make a new TV deal.”
“Who do they put in as the new president?” White continued. “Jimmy Pitaro, who ran Yahoo! Sports for years. I’ve known him a long time. He’s a great dude, and he loves the UFC. Now you got him, you got a guy named Kevin Mayer, who is really close to [Endeavor CEO] Ari [Emanuel], and we ended up doing the ESPN deal when our deal was up.”
WHAT. A. FINISH.
Kamaru Usman went over to Dana White after his KO 👊 @espnmma #UFC261 pic.twitter.com/Ha80u9hLGJ
— ESPN (@espn) April 25, 2021
ESPN and UFC ended up agreeing to a 5-year, $1.5 billion deal.
Skipper, meanwhile, went on to become a key cog at DAZN — before he helped launch Meadowlark Media with former ESPN personality Dan Le Betard.