A feared and legendary figure in Boston, mob boss James “Whitey” Bulger became a household name when he disappeared in 1995 after an FBI agent tipped him off to his impending indictment. Bulger, who had been an informant for the FBI, fled Boston with a companion, Catherine Greig.
Their 16-year run from the law came to an end Wednesday when the FBI apprehended the 81-year-old mobster and his girlfriend in Santa Monica, Calif. The arrests came just days after the government launched a new publicity campaign to locate them.
Raised in humble beginnings, the violent minutiae of Bulger’s life — including an alleged 19 murders — cast a dark shadow over a family that also boasts one of Massachusetts’ most powerful politicians. So compelling was Bulger’s attempted departure from his life of crime that Martin Scorsese adapted it for the screen with great effect in the Oscar-winning film, “The Departed.”
So what does this have to do with MMA? It turns out that we can thank Whitey for pushing our Whitey, aka Dana White, out of Boston and into the Las Vegas boxercise circuit:
Before moving back to Las Vegas in the early 1990s, UFC President Dana White managed a boxing gym in South Boston. But a run-in with the Bulger enterprise convinced him to leave New England, White said.
He’s told the story to multiple news outlets, including Men’s Fitness:
“Whitey Bulger had a bunch of goons working under him and they wanted $2,500. At the time, that might as well have been $25,000 to me. I didn’t have it, so I went back to Vegas.”
White went on to establish himself as a gym owner and fitness trainer in Las Vegas. He renewed an old friendship with the Fertitta brothers, met jiu-jitsu black belt John Lewis and developed the fascination with grappling and mixed martial arts that led to a career as a manager of MMA fighters.
That eventually led to White and the Ferittas creating Zuffa to buy UFC in 2001.
Okay, obviously Dana has been able to go back to Boston even with Whitey on the loose, but it’s still funny that the guy who shook down the Baldfather and inadvertantly turned him into a millionaire and sports revolutionary has been caught.
White kinda went from one gangster movie inspiration to another … Whitey might have been the inspiration for The Departed, but Frank Fertitta’s dad was the inspiration for the movie Casino. I was a bigger fan of Casino, mainly because Boston accents make me want to drive a pen through my eyeball and there was too much love triangle crap in Departed and not enough Jack Nicholson being a bad motherfucker.