UFC President Dana White (Sherdog)

Combat Press 2023 MMA Awards: Executive of the Year – Dana White

A new year is here, and that means it’s time for Combat Press to take a look back at the best of MMA in 2023. In the coming days, Combat Press will announce its award winners in multiple categories, covering everything from the action in the cage to the biggest stories surrounding the sport.

Despite both being combat sports, in many ways, boxing and mixed martial arts are polar opposites. In the boxing world, promoters are kept separate from the sanctioning bodies. There are no Top Rank champions or Matchroom Boxing champions. Instead, the belts are awarded by one of the big four sanctioning bodies. A boxer has to walk the tight rope of contractual obligations to his promoter to organize big fights and to try to unify belts. Year after year, the sport gets in its own way, and fans miss out on big fights, because the two sides of the street can’t come together for an agreement on how to split the prize money. However, at the highest levels, boxers are paid much more handsomely than MMA fighters, so this isn’t to say which set up is better than the other.

Because of the unilateral decision making that a promoter is able to have, there are few excuses for why things fall apart in the mixed martial arts world. Year in and year out, fans are treated to matchups of the best against the best, and, when injuries happen, it is on the promoter to find a suitable solution.


In 2023, despite not having the biggest star in the sport compete, the UFC had a banner year. Fans were treated to the return of Jon Jones after a three-year layoff, something that seemed nearly impossible with the demands Jones was making and his reputation for being a fighter who is tough to deal with from a promotional perspective.

At UFC 294, both the main and co-main event fell apart due to injuries less than two weeks before the event. Somehow, the UFC managed to put together two arguably more compelling replacement matchups. Alexander Volkanovski stepped up on short notice to rematch Islam Makhachev for the lightweight title, after Charles Oliveira was forced out of action. In addition, former welterweight champion Kamaru Usman moved up to middleweight to clash with the berserker that is Khamzat Chimaev, after Paulo Costa was unable to fight due to a surgery.

UFC President Dana White is a huge reason why those fights were able to be made and the show remained intact. Love him or not, White consistently orchestrates the best product in the sport. While he does have a talent-stacked roster, at the end of the day, it is still largely up to White to get the fighters to sign on the dotted line and take fights with the most dangerous opponents. Yet, again, in 2023, White put on show after show of great fights whether they were Fight Nights held at the UFC Apex, on the road for a highlighted Fight Night in an arena across the country, or a numbered pay-per-view event. Even the events that seem to lack fan enthusiasm heading into the show delivered some great moments, like Da’Mon Blackshear scoring his third twister submission in the promotion on an afternoon fight card at the Apex.

For his consistent ability to put on great shows and his ability to coax fighters into fighting when he and the fans have more to gain than the athletes themselves, Dana White takes home the Combat Press 2023 MMA Award for Executive of the Year.