Dana White says UFC 216 is about 'the families, victims, Las Vegas'

White says UFC 216 is about 'not bowing down to cowards' (2:13)

UFC president Dana White says Saturday's UFC 216 will be unique. The UFC plans to honor victims and first responders of Sunday's mass shootings in Las Vegas. (2:13)

LAS VEGAS -- The UFC has offered all first responders to last weekend's mass shooting in Las Vegas comped tickets to Saturday's UFC 216 pay-per-event inside T-Mobile Arena.

UFC president Dana White told ESPN that the organization is expecting more than 1,500 first responders from local police, firefighters and EMT departments to attend. He also said he expects several victims to be in attendance.

"I've never been in a position where I don't even know how many people are going to show up here tomorrow," White said. "People bought tickets, but were flying in from other places. Did they cancel their flight? A lot of these airlines are saying you can use the ticket anytime you want if you don't want to come to Vegas.

"It might just be me, the media and 1,500 first responders here tomorrow. And I don't care. This isn't an event about the gate or about any of that stuff. This is about the families, the victims, Las Vegas, and not bowing down to cowards."

Fifty-eight people were killed and hundreds injured last Sunday when Stephen Paddock, 64, opened fire on a crowd of concertgoers from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel.

The UFC quickly pledged $1 million to victims' families. Several other notable Las Vegas businessmen and enterprises have made sizable donations as well.

White noted that the UFC's donation amounted to roughly $16,000 per family.

"That doesn't fly you home. That doesn't bury a loved one," White said. "I urged the community -- let's dive in and handle this ourselves.

"Sure enough, [previous UFC owners Lorenzo and Frank] Fertitta stepped up for $1 million. Zappos gave $1 million. Boyd Gaming gave $1 million. Then you get into MGM gave $3 million, and [Las Vegas Sands Corp. CEO] Sheldon Adelson came in with $4 million. So now you're talking real money for these people."

UFC 216 is headlined by an interim lightweight title fight between Las Vegas resident Kevin Lee and Tony Ferguson. Lee is originally from Detroit, but he moved full time to Las Vegas in 2014.

White, who grew up and went to high school in Las Vegas, said it was important for the UFC to follow through with the event. The UFC has been headquartered in Las Vegas since 2001 and opened a new facility here this year.

"People always say, 'People live in Vegas? Wow, I thought that was just a place you go to party,'" White said. "But you found out this weekend this is a community, and it's a very strong community. I'm very proud to live here, and I'm proud of what everybody has done.

"What you don't want to do is back down to cowards. This coward that went up into a room, hiding, killing women and children, people there dancing, singing, having fun. You can't bow down to this stuff. You have to take it head-on."