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Jake Paul advisor Nakisa Bidarian recalls ‘up-and-down relationship’ with Dana White during UFC days

UFC CEO Dana White may view Nakisa Bidarian as an enemy and competitor now, but not long ago the two worked hand-in-hand to help turn UFC into a financial behemoth.

Bidarian is a close business partner of Jake Paul’s and co-founder of Most Valuable Promotions. Before that, however, he was a trusted ally of former UFC owners Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta. The Fertitta brothers brought Bidarian on as an executive in charge of strategy and business ventures with the UFC in 2011. By the time Bidarian departed UFC in 2016, he was the promotion’s Chief Financial Officer.

Yet due to Paul’s never-ending war of words against White, Bidarian has come into the UFC boss’ crosshairs often over the past few years. In a rare longform interview Wednesday on The MMA Hour, Bidarian reflected on his relationship with White during his UFC days.

“Look, I respect Dana for the impact he’s had on fight sports. Right? And you have to commend his ability to control the narrative at UFC and with the fighters,” Bidarian said.

“I would say Dana and I had an up-and-down relationship, which I don’t think is different to a lot of the relationships he had with executives at UFC during that period of time. I’ve always been outspoken in my beliefs and not afraid to present what we think is the right path forward strategically to do things. And you have to remember, I wasn’t hired by Dana White. I didn’t interview with Dana White to come into the UFC. You could argue that he was a proponent of me leaving the UFC, absolutely, for many different reasons. But we had an amicable relationship for most of the time that I was there.”

Perhaps Bidarian’s greatest accomplishment during his UFC days came toward the end of his tenure. Bidarian said he worked as the “lead advisor for UFC and the Fertittas, in addition to JP Morgan and Raine [Group]” on the more than $4 billion sale of the promotion to talent agency Endeavor in 2016. According to Bidarian, UFC nearly sold two years earlier in 2014, however the financials didn’t hit a number the Fertittas wanted. But 2016 was different, with the final sale price standing at the time as the most expensive transaction for an organization in sports history. After that, Bidarian moved on to the Fertittas’ next venture.

“[The UFC sale] was really something that I worked on for two-plus years with the support of Frank and Lorenzo and getting them the outcome that they wanted at the time,” Bidarian said.

“I went and set up Fertitta Capital [after that]. The Fertittas committed a certain amount of capital for myself and the team to invest in media, entertainment, and sports, with the expectation that over time we would bring in third-party capital, so other investors would come in. And it got to a point after about two years where there was a misalignment in terms of that vision, meaning Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta wanted to keep the capital in-house, captive to their family, and I wanted to bring in third-party capital, and that’s where we decided to part ways.”

Bidarian described his split with the Fertittas as 100 percent “amicable.” Soon after, he met Paul — and it wasn’t long before he and Paul partnered to create Most Valuable Promotions.

Seemingly overnight, Bidarian found himself dragged into Paul’s feud with White.

“Dana and Ben Askren had no relationship. As soon as it was announced Ben Askren was fighting Jake Paul [in 2021], Dana helped Ben Askren get with Freddie Roach,” Bidarian said. “Freddie Roach started training Ben Askren. Freddie Roach made the statement that Ben Askren is going to make Jake Paul the biggest meme in fight sports history. I remember Dana went on some podcasts and said he’s going to bet a million dollars that Jake is going to lose. And Jake didn’t lose, Jake won. And then fast forward to Tyron Woodley. He beat Tyron Woodley in the first fight, Dana came out and said the fight was rigged. And I started to really think about, like, what is the purpose of knocking down this young man?

“I understand he’s making content poking you. But like, why do you want to break him with misinformation effectively, right? Like, the fight is fixed — really? And then it came to the second Tyron Woodley fight and he came out and said Jake Paul’s using steroids. And that was really the moment where I went to Jake and I said, ‘OK, now I’m on your side, and you’re passionate about fighter pay. I’m going to support that effort and I’m going to educate you more on fighter pay, and let’s start to be a little bit more public with that.’ And that’s really the point where Dana attacked me, because I think he understood pretty clearly that I had helped Jake understand the fighter pay ecosystem.”

Still, Bidarian has rarely fired back in the public eye at White’s accusations and slights.

That decision has been a purposeful one.

“I’m a private person. I’m focused on my family,” Bidarian said. “Dana White can talk about me all he wants, it’s OK with me. He can say as many lies as he wants.”

Paul faces UFC veteran and BKFC star Mike Perry on July 20 at the Amalie Arena in Tampa, Fla. That fight is promoted under the MVP umbrella and is set to air live on DAZN.

Bidarian’s entire sitdown on The MMA Hour can be watched above.

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