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MIXED MARTIAL ARTS

It's prime time for UFC's Dana White

The heavyweight championship bout between Cain Velasquez and Junior Dos Santos will be show on Fox, and White is anxious about the big event.

November 09, 2011|By Baxter Holmes
  • UFC President Dana White speaks during a news conference Sept. 20 in Hollywood while promoting the Cain Velasquez-Junior Dos Santos fight. White is admittedly anxious about the UFC's debut on Fox.
UFC President Dana White speaks during a news conference Sept. 20 in Hollywood… (Victor Decolongon / Getty…)

Dana White's dark eyes sagged, along with the rest of his stocky frame.

"I'm a … wreck," the hard-charging Ultimate Fighting Championship president told a scrum of reporters Wednesday at L.A. Live as he sat on the edge of a stage.

"I haven't slept," he said. "I feel weird. I can't wait for Saturday to be over with. I want to nail this thing. I want to do it right and put it behind me and move forward."

That night is UFC's first network prime-time appearance on Fox, a heavyweight championship bout between Cain Velasquez and Junior Dos Santos at Honda Center in Anaheim.

For the fighters, it's not that big of a deal.

"It feels the same as any other fight," said Velasquez (9-0 MMA, 7-0 UFC), the defending heavyweight champion.

"I'm feeling really excited for this fight, but no pressure," said Dos Santos (13-1 MMA, 7-0 UFC).

The same isn't true for White, who in the last decade has worked tirelessly to turn the once nearly bankrupt organization into a billion-dollar enterprise.

He calls Saturday the biggest night in UFC history and declared the fight a test run for UFC's seven-year deal with Fox Sports, which begins in January.

That deal is worth $100 million annually and will place four fights a year on the network while also airing UFC's popular "The Ultimate Fighter" series and six live fights on FX.

A one-hour special will precede the fight and only the heavyweight bout will be televised — even if it lasts 10 seconds, White said — although there are nine other fights on the card.

But because this fight is airing to a more general audience, White said the production will be a different.

"There's going to be storytelling, there's going to be explaining on who we are, what this is, what these athletes are about," White said. "There's definitely going to be some breakdowns and a lot of explanations, more than you would see on a typical UFC event."

White and Fox executives are optimistic for strong ratings, but didn't want to jinx themselves by admitting what numbers they hope for.

For White, though, the airing of this bout will fulfill a childhood dream.

He reminisced about watching top boxing matches on ABC's "Wide World of Sports" as a child and lamented their departure to pay-per-view television.

This is his way of bringing big fights back to free television.

"We're doing something that I've always wanted to do," White said.

This fight falls on the same night that boxing's top pound-for-pound fighter, Manny Pacquiao, faces Juan Manuel Marquez in a pay-per-view bout at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

But White said UFC's main card is scheduled to start at 6 p.m. PST and Velasquez-Dos Santos should be over about an hour before the Pacquiao-Marquez fight begins.

"You should watch both fights," White said.

baxter.holmes@latimes.com

twitter.com/baxterholmes

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