UFC Co-Founder Art Davie Talks with CYInterview at the Wynn Las Vegas Sportsbook: Discusses His Book, Is This Legal? Being Made Into a Movie, the Possibility of Connor McGregor Fighting Floyd Mayweather, Jr., More
Las Vegas is fight central for the United States. Both boxing and mixed martial arts hold gigantic events there, throughout the calendar year. Art Davie, one of the men responsible for starting the UFC and bringing mixed martial arts to a wide audience, lives not far from Las Vegas in the city of Pahrump, Nevada. Mr. Davie, the author of Is This Legal? The Inside Story of the First UFC from the Man Who Created It is now working on the next part of his saga.
After being inducted into the Legends of MMA Hall of Fame in 2014, Mr. Davie has been working hard on getting Is This Legal? turned into a movie. Last year, the UFC founder touched on the subject with us. [See our past CYInterviews with Art Davie here and here]. Aside from that, there is no denying that his work on behalf of mixed martial arts should earn him an induction into the Contributor’s Section of the UFC Hall of Fame. It is something he thinks will happen in the coming years.
I recently met Art at the Wynn Las Vegas sportsbook to get some greater insight into what was happening with the movie, as well as his life in general. (You can see my photo with Art above. Additionally, you can also find a picture with me, Art and Wynn Las Vegas sportsbook manager John Avello, a CYInterview regular, in the piece below.)
Today, the UFC makes its home in Las Vegas and holds many of its fight cards in the city. None of this would have been possible without Art’s desire to bring the best fighters in the world together at the first UFC back in 1993. Owing to that and the continued growth that came after, Las Vegas is now a town with two fighting sports, instead of one — the other being boxing.
You can read the highlights and listen to the entire CYInterview below:
Listen to the entire Art Davie CYInterview:
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Getting his thoughts on the Wynn Las Vegas where we spoke for this CYInterview, Art shares a story about Steve Wynn, CEO and Chairman of Wynn Resorts, Limited:
“The Wynn really has established kind of a new benchmark here in Vegas and Steve Wynn, who I got a chance to meet when I brought K-1 to America back in ’98, sat next to me at the K-1 at the Mirage. I think he’s really become probably the most important individual in the gaming industry here in Vegas because he’s really established kind of a benchmark for what the Strip hotels are all about.”
Giving an update on Art’s book being made into a movie, he said this:
“We secured two writers, Tanner Bean and Katie Mathewson, both of them are protégés for the fella who did Eat, Pray, Love. And they’re really excited about the thing and they had done two drafts. We got a draft on February 29th. We got a draft on April 22nd and it’s really good. So we’re really excited about it. But now as producers, we’ve also brought in Dena Hysell to be a script doctor and do a little tweaking on it to make it even more of a great story and we’re really excited about the fact that we’ve got initial interest from a lot of investors as far away as China and Europe.
And you know, the international market for MMA is enormous. We’re telling people there are probably 300, 400 million people around the world that are now devotees of this sport and we’re gonna wind up getting a percentage of those. But you know what’s interesting Chris, is that Is This Legal? is gonna be no more about MMA in a sense than maybe Rocky is really about boxing. Rocky is really an inspirational story that had a broad cross section appeal above and beyond people who were interested in watching boxing. And Is This Legal? we think is gonna have a pretty interesting appeal to people who really don’t know much about MMA or maybe don’t even care a lot about MMA.
Because as you pointed out to me once in an interview, you know, there aren’t too many people who got a chance to create a new sport, it’s been very rare that that’s happened and I’ve been in a really lucky position at this point. But I had a lot of luck going for me, but I was the right guy, at the right time, with the right plan and man, I just wouldn’t give up.”
According to Mr. Davie, actors including Paul Giamatti, Sam Rockwell and others are on a short list to play him in the movie based on his life story. When we spoke a few weeks ago, he told us he planned to give a copy of Is This Legal? to Robert Downey Jr., since he is a big fan of the UFC:
“They’re hand delivering a book to Robert Downey Jr. who recently online posted the three things that he geeks out about in order are the UFC, history and design. Gee, Is This Legal? is the history of the UFC, how it began. So we are handing that book tomorrow to his wife Susan. They’re back from Cannes and you know, he’s a big fan of MMA. We’re hoping that he enjoys the book. I autographed it for him. I think he’ll get a big kick out of it.”
On how Las Vegas made the UFC and Mixed Martial Arts bigger, Art Davie said this:
“This is the center of the fighting universe and just as pay per view had been the home for boxing and wrestling, Las Vegas really was the place you wanted to have big fights. Remember that back in the day, back in ’97 or so, we came here and tried to get approval and were turned down, actually turned down twice. So we knew that coming to the fight town, the fight capital of the United States, of the world was gonna be essential. And you gotta give the Fertitta Brothers and Zuffa a lot of credit because when they bought it in 2001, you know, Lorenzo [Fertitta] had been on the commission and their relationship with the people on the commission was strong.
Not long after that they brought Mark Ratner, who had been the Executive Director of the Nevada State Athletic Commission, he’s now and still is their VP of Government Affairs. So they knew that it was essential to bring the shows to Vegas and the proof has been in the history. They’ve done the greatest number of shows that they’ve done, have been right here in Las Vegas, Nevada.”
It was in 2014 that Art received his induction into the Legends of MMA Hall of Fame. As far as being inducted into the Contributor’s Section of the UFC Hall of Fame, he shared this:
“I’m a patient man. It took me four years to finally get everything together to do the UFC 1 and I was very honored and pleased in November 16th of 2014, the Legends of MMA Hall of Fame honored me with a ring and an induction into the MMA of Hall of Fame. Eventually, I think I’ll be in the UFC Hall of Fame in the Contributor’s Section, now that they have established that; if not this year probably next year.”
What does he think is in store for the future of fighting?
“I believe that what’s happening in Asia is very interesting. I see that they’re bringing in fighters from Mongolia and India. Some of the great land mass on the planet earth is Eurasia and I have a funny feeling that we haven’t seen where MMA is really gonna be going. I think it’s gonna be bigger. I think what we’re seeing with stars today like Ronda Rousey and Conor McGregor and Jon Jones is only the tip of the iceberg. It could be the greatest light heavyweight in the world is some kid from Mongolia or maybe a wrestler from India. So I think we’re gonna see a lot more internationalization, these guys becoming and gals becoming even bigger.”
Speaking of UFC star Conor McGregor and being in Vegas, the home base of undefeated, recently retired boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr., I had to ask Art about the rumors that Floyd would like to come out of retirement to fight Conor. Art weighs in on whether fighting Mayweather would be good for McGregor:
“If I were being brought in as a consultant or as an advisor, I would tell Conor not do it. I’m not sure that it can really be a big plus for his career. I think it might wind up being a misstep and you know, once you’re on top of the featherweight class the way he’s been and you know, what I would do is concentrate on my MMA career and make sure that I’m building my legacy as a legend.”
Editors note: After the original conversation, Art pointed out to us regarding the people working on his movie project, that Tanner Bean is Dan Fogelman’s protégé. Katie Mathewson is not a protege of Dan Fogelman. Additionally, Dan Fogelman wrote the screenplay for Crazy, Stupid, Love and not the movie Eat, Pray, Love.
You can purchase a copy of Art Davie’s book clicking here..
Art Davie’s official website is here.
You can follow Art Davie on Twitter here.
You can email Chris Yandek at ChrisYandek@CYInterview.com
You can follow Chris Yandek on Twitter here.