I thought he meant US football and I was like, globally sure, NFL doesn't have that large of an international following. But then I reread and saw soccer and had to laugh.
How did he get lucky? Working your ass off on something and it pays off is luck?
All he had was first mover's advantage, which is pretty close to luck in the business world.
Boxing was too watered down and MMA was conceptualized and legalized by the Gracies. Dana just took a boatload of money from the Fertittas and tidied up an idea whose time had already come.
Take a comparison from the online world. Is facebook really the best / most optimized social networking site? Is hotmail really the best online email provider? Is internet explorer really the best internet browser? No. On the contrary, they are all quite shit, but have or have had until recently the highest market share.
They just have first mover's advantage. With ideas that had already been pioneered by others, they were just the first to dump money into it or piggy back off an existing base. In Dana's case, he was piggy-backing off the Fertitta's existing casino empire in Vegas.
Hard work and business skill are reflected by the likes Google, who come out of nowhere and capture the market based on superb quality & practices.
The world loves combat, it's man's oldest instinct and the base for all other sports. The entire idea of sports originally in the tribal context was to abstract away combat into less violent but still competitive skills that could carry over into combat. That and highlight who the best warriors among them were, without having said warriors killed before the need for them arose.
Javelin throwing, archery, shot put, wrestling, athletics etc. were direct combat skills, and team sports useful abstractions of war etc.
The point is MMA as a sport is bound to succeed the moment it's made legal. All it needed was some investment and polish, and Dana got lucky being the first one to spot it. That's it.
His amazing business sense is reflected by stupid comments like this and constant childish behavior. The man has zero goodwill or credibility with fighters, the public or TV execs, most bigwigs think he's a childish egotistical idiot and have said as much in interviews.
If he didn't have first mover's advantage with someone else's money in a sport destined to succeed this guy couldn't make a penny. He has made every dumb move you could make and pissed off everyone he could possibly piss off.
If he wasn't sitting at the head of an org with first mover's advantage in a sport we are bound to love, no one would give a fig about this moron.