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Dana White: There’s a thin line between love and hate

I like Dana White. I really do. Foibles and all, he’s still a charismatic and likable guy. Well, likable to me at any rate. We all know that the sport of MMA wouldn’t be where it is now without him and his determined leadership pushing forward. The overwhelming majority of his decisions further the good of MMA while staying out of the circus like aspect seen in many other promotions both in the states as well as abroad; Japan, I’m looking at you. To top it off, he’s shown he’s a fan of the sport as much as he is a businessman in that he wants to see the best fight the best, albeit under the Zuffa banner, going out of his way to pursue fighters (i.e. Fedor Emelianenko) well past the point a simple businessman would. Dana’s straight talk has even come under fire with comparisons to national sports commissioners such as the NBA’s David Stern or the NFL’s Roger Goodell. You’ll never see the aforementioned men make blunt and pointed statements the way Dana regularly does, yet it’s something many fans and media personnel enjoy as a refreshing change of pace.

But that’s where my biggest problem with Dana lies, and I suspect I am not alone. As much as he is a straight talker that rarely pulls his punches, he is primarily a fight promoter, something we need to remember every time he talks about his opposition. Take his latest comments to the LA Times regarding Strikeforce’s recent CBS debut:

CBS would be out of their mind to put that rinky-dink [Strikeforce] . . . on the air again . . . and without that backing, [promoters] won’t have the money to pay [Emelianenko].

The guy just got his face smashed in by Brett Rogers. Do you know what Brock or [UFC heavyweights] Frank Mir and Cain Velasquez would do to Brett Rogers?” White said. “It’s time to bring this guy [Fedor] in, to see Brock Lesnar smash his head.

Dana isn’t an idiot and he knows what he is doing. It makes business sense to belittle your competition so it is perceived as less than it is by the masses. In fact, Dana White is a dead ringer for Vince McMahon when it comes to attacking the competition. The main difference between the two is McMahon generally refuses to acknowledge the existence of any competition when the WWE is at the top of the sports entertainment mountain.

And that’s where the UFC is. They are clearly the kings of the mixed martial arts world. Strikeforce doesn’t dispute this, nor do their fighters, nor do any but the most delusional of MMA fans. Zuffa has the overwhelming majority of top ten ranked fighters across the weight divisions and puts on a cavalcade of events throughout the calendar year filled with a mixture of bouts ranging from the established best of the best competing for championship gold on a regular basis, down to young prospects looking to make a name for themselves.

What I ask is simply this: Does Dana need to take this approach of consistent demeaning of the opposition? Are his comments necessary for his business to not only succeed but succeed at the highest level? Or does saying such things characterize him as little more than the go to source for UFC propaganda and erode his reputation as a bold, straight talking CEO willing to speak his mind? I know it’s my unrealistic, naïve “with a little work we can all see eye-to-eye” side talking, but I’d love to see the UFC president say what we all know as the truth when the truth is obvious. Compliment Fedor and acknowledge his place in history. It’s fair to bring up that the game has evolved significantly over the past five years and that many UFC heavyweights would pose threats to Fedor he hasn’t encountered yet nor is likely to encounter outside of the UFC. It’s fair to talk about how Fedor is small for a heavyweight and may be unable to keep up in the era of hulking 265 pound behemoths. It’s even fair to say that Strikeforce put on an entertaining show that wasn’t a step backwards for the sport ala EliteXC, but the UFC has ten times the depth and talent pool at their disposal.

I suppose in the end I just want Dana to say what I we all suspect he’s thinking behind his promoter persona. Maybe because I like the guy and dislike the deceit that’s so easily accepted as just “part of the job”. The UFC is the dominant organization and in no danger of losing its spot. Even in some of the worst economic times when people are saving money wherever possible the UFC still pulls in record turnouts and PPV numbers. Just a small, deserved compliment of the (distant) competition would go a long way towards establishing the UFC president’s image as more than the PR mouthpiece for his company.

But what do I know; I’m not a public relations specialist. I’m just an idealistic fan and MMA commentator. So if you’ll excuse me, I’ll go back over to the fire and start up another spirited round of Kum Bay Ya.

22 COMMENTS
  • Pajamashark says:

    I was like “Oh, Kum Bay Ya must be a new Martial Art I haven’t heard of yet…”

    Hippie!

    This is what I don’t like about Dana White: He has the keys to the MMA kingdom and knows this and loves it. It is sometimes entertaining because you rarely see CEOs these days pretend to be Scarface and say things like, “Vegas is my town. Something goes on here, I’m gonna fucking know about it, you got that?” When he goes on record about how Roy Nelson is a fucking loser, well, you know Big Country’s career prospects got much much slimmer. So it seems in order to function in the UFC you also have to have a black belt in ass-kissing.

    The established guys in MMA I don’t worry about, especially since they’ve had time to develop a fanbase and sometimes it is even outside of the UFC. But like when Dana had his feud with Tito, and blacked out all mention of his name (highlight reels, best-of-fights, etc.) to the point where I didn’t even know who Tito was coming in as a new fan, that must be scary for any up and coming fighter.

    I worry that fighters are going to take too many risks to get on Dana’s radar because there is NO clear transparent process of how fights get made and picked. I’m a Forrest fan but before he took this fight with Tito, I just had to sit around basically and wait like a kid at Christmas for Dana Claus to hand me the gift of a Forrest fight. No idea when he’d fight again or who.

    This whole thing where Dana is shoving Kimbo down our throats at every opportunity is an example of this bullshit. Who decided that meaningless fight should take up a valuable slot on a card above guys who have already paid their dues? Stop tonguing Kimbo’s starfish for a second, Dana, and go develop a women’s devision or address the problems in the weightclasses.

    Give us fans and the fighters a little bit more insight to your matchmaking process. Right now we have to trust your judgement and credibility on that, and you seem to be really intent on pissing that away because of your ego and love for publicity. Publicity for yourself does not equal publicity for your league, so leave Fedor alone, send Kimbo away, and focus on what you have. We appreciate your rabid love for the sport, but its getting a little bit embarrassing when our most public figure for MMA is a shouty mouthy profanity spewing imp with a gangerster complex. Chuck Liddell’s ruffled shirts were less embarrassing then some of Dana’s drama.

  • jding3 says:

    I hate how Dana always talks out of his ass. His way of making himself feel better about the UFC always seems to bashing other people or organizations. Everyone knows the UFC is the best right now and it would be nice if Dana could just be the bigger man for once. There’s definitely other ways he could go about promoting the UFC and he would come off as looking a lot more respectable and professional. The way he always opens his big mouth makes him come off as a big childish insecure bully. I don’t think it helps in anyway to progress the sport. Personally, I appreciate Coker’s approach in being a little more quiet and out of the picture. He does a good job of making it all about the fighters, and Dana sometimes comes off like being all about Dana.

  • GassedOut says:

    I don’t think you’re far off, but again, like you say, what do I know? I’m a sales guy, not a marketing expert or a spin doctor.

  • BiG BaD BuLL says:

    keep in mind that I agree (at least a little bit) with every opinion that’s been put down regarding this topic.But this is how I see it: Dana uses his own flambouyant personality as free adversiment. His name is synonamous with the UFC; you don’t think of one without the other. I feel that he walks a very fine line in that, he is the epitome of a fight fan, but being a fan doesn’t pay the bills. you love him, hate him, or love to hate him… but you still tune in to see what he is going to say.

  • jj says:

    If a fighter is in the UFC they’re the best pound for pound fighter in the world. If the same fighter is another organization they’re a insult to the sport.

    Fedor didn’t get his face smashed in. He had a bloody nose and some welts. Fedor is a bruiser and always gets welts. So it really comes down to a bloody nose.

    So are we now to assume that Randy Couture is a complete joke of a fighter since he lost to Brock Lesnar? Of course not, he’s fighting this weekend and he’s the best fighter on the planet again.

    Dana always preaches about how his brand of MMA is the best because he’s terrified people may discover it’s not about the banner under which someone fights, it’s the fighter and his opponent that matter and NOTHING else.

    I love good MMA, I couldn’t give a shit what brand it’s under.

  • Dufresne says:

    How many other MMA organizations has he helped run out of business in the past with this exact same philosophy? The moment any competition shows up on the radar, he does everything he can to belittle the organization, the competition they offer, and (usually) their ownership. And why not? Hasn’t he managed to squash any real threats so far? Why change what worked in the past?
    And what does he usually do right after the competition goes under? The UFC scavenges the top talent. It may not be nice or friendly, but it ultimately works and makes the UFC stronger.

    At least it has in the past.

  • BiG BaD BuLL says:

    there is an old japanese proverb that says something to the effect of ” to respect your enemy is the quickest way to defeating them.” If dana get other leagues/ fighters proper credit and respect, no damage would be done to the UFC. as a matter of fact, the more people that watch other leagues, the more people become aware and interested in mma, then the more people will tune in to the UFC. I’m not a fan of the UFC; I’m a fan of fighting. I’ll watch and pay for any league that has good match ups. I’d rather watch re runs of old fights than a new episode of Lost.

  • Angry Mike says:

    I’m ambivalent about these kinds of statements. Some days they annoy me, and some days I LMAO. The Japanese orgs have a fascination with “freak show” match ups to add a little spectacle. UFC doesn’t do that, so maybe White is filling the niche with his incendiary rhetoric.

  • Angry Mike says:

    Hey, it’s totally off-topic, but today is Veteran’s day. We oughta put together an informal list of MMA fighters who are vets in honor of their service. Obvious persons on the list are Randy Couture, Tim Kennedy, Brian Stann, and Luigi Fiorvanti. Who else?

  • Gurthee says:

    This is just another opinion. Why would anybody who doesn’t have to deal with Dana White on a regular basis care what he says anyways? What Dana says has no effect on me what so ever. As long as he keeps promoting MMA and putting on the best fights why should I care what he says? Atleast he’s not constantly spewing out a bunch of PC crap like all the other stuffed shirt commissioners. Dana FTW!

  • Here’s an analogy. When Michael Jordan recently got inducted in the Basketball Hall of Fame, rather than take the opportunity to thank those who supported him throughout his career, he took that once in a lifetime opportunity to make an ill-conceived, negative speech that trashed opponents and completely overlooked his teammates and family. Why would he do this? Because in his ego-filled mind, he’s MJ, the one and only.

    That’s Dana White’s take. He’s Dana White, the face of what is in his mind, the one and only promotion that matters in the world of mixed martial arts. If you’re hoping or wishing for Dana White to spew compliments towards other organizations and its fighters on a consistent basis, keep dreaming. In his mind, the UFC is responsible for putting the sport on the mainstream map, so what does complimenting other promotions and its fighters do for him? Nothing.

  • bigbadjohn says:

    I don’t give two shits what Dana acts like. He markets the UFC well and the UFC puts on great fights. They are the best MMA league around. I can talk all day about fighters, their styles and even their antics but I can’t sit here and talk about Dana. It is beside the point. I’ve never even posted about Dana until now and doubt I will again. You see, Dana is in a business with copious amounts of trash-talking. But he’s the only one who won’t get punched in the face for it.

  • Caleb Newby says:

    Very nice, I like that analogy quite a bit Lee.

  • Vogairian says:

    What I said in an earlier post:
    “As for Fedor getting his face smashed by Brock, I think we all know that’s just Dana talking up his own guy like any good promoter would do.”

    I still feel this same way. Think about it like this… We’re coming off the biggest show in Strikeforce’s history and we’re talking just as much about the UFC and Dana as we are Fedor and Jake Shields. This guy knows how to keep his show in everyone’s mind even when it shouldn’t be.

    On top of that I do think it’s necessary for Dana to go at Strikeforce full force. Look at what some of the people around here say. Strikeforce gets to borrow Aoki and you see people start saying “With all of these signings… the UFC better watch out!” We all know in reality that’s not the case, but you have to match hyperbole with hyperbole. Does Dana really think Fedor would come in and get steamrolled by every UFC heavyweight? Of course not. Does he really think Brett Rogers would come into the UFC and get destroyed? Probably, but so do a lot of people, including myself.

    In the end it’s just like any other business. Your goal is to be the biggest and best at what you do and when you finally get there, your goal is to stay there and crush anyone who starts to grab at your ankles. Right now Strikeforce has a hand on the UFC’s shoe and it’s time to kick them back down the mountain.

  • BiG BaD BuLL says:

    great point lee

  • edub says:

    Lee Gerowitz: When Michael Jordan recently got inducted in the Basketball Hall of Fame, rather than take the opportunity to thank those who supported him throughout his career, he took that once in a lifetime opportunity to make an ill-conceived, negative speech that trashed opponents and completely overlooked his teammates and family.

    In the first qoutes of his speech he said “I wouldn’t be here without Scotty Pippen. I wouldnt be here without Phil Jackson…” and he continued to thank teammates opponents and coaches throughout his whole speech, while also getting his jabs in. Not quite sure if i see the analogy at all.

  • Kuch says:

    Dana White is a promoter first and foremost. He may be the CEO, but his duties as a promoter trump everything else. I personally enjoy his tirades, but I also know he is just doing his job, which is whatever it takes to get people to tune into his show and turn off the competition’s.

    His personal attacks on guys like Tito stem primarily from their long history and friendship, which is almost always bound to happen when you mix business with friendships. I don’t think many newer fighters have to worry about that so long as they keep their relationship professional.

  • s00nertp says:

    Strikeforce put together such a great FREE card. Any MMA fan (including Dana White) who complains needs to send me $50, to help them see the light.

    Mousassi, Werdum, Fedor, Brett, Sokoudu, FOR FREEE???? are you kidding?!

    and I should add Randy and all the fights this weekend, because that is the only reason the UFC is making it free.

    Give me a break all the UFC fanboys need to back off.

  • edub, you’re absolutely right, MJ did say those things. And then he went on to make possibly the worst acceptance speech in the history of any kind of hall of fame…WWF/WWE included.

    So, to play off of your point, here’s another analogy…

    MJ started off his speech praising people and then tailed off into insulting many others.

    Well, hasn’t Dana White done that with Fedor? Didn’t he praise him when he said he wanted to sign him? Then he met with Fedor and his folks, and couldn’t sign him?

    And where are we now again with Dana’s attitude towards Fedor?

    Thanks.

  • edub says:

    Lee Gerowitz: And then he went on to make possibly the worst acceptance speech in the history of any kind of hall of fame

    Ah see heres where we differ than. That speech I thought was equal parts of being funny and shit talking. MJ was not ever known to be humble on the court, and he shouldnt have to go out of his way to be humble in his acceptance speech. Like when he called out Bryon Russes for talking shit to him the year before he came back, and then went on to destroy him in the finals. I thought that was awesome. I thought the speech was great.

  • edub: Ah see heres where we differ than. That speech I thought was equal parts of being funny and shit talking. MJ was not ever known to be humble on the court, and he shouldnt have to go out of his way to be humble in his acceptance speech. Like when he called out Bryon Russes for talking shit to him the year before he came back, and then went on to destroy him in the finals. I thought that was awesome. I thought the speech was great.

    Hear, hear.

    I loved his speech. Jordan was a notorious shit talker on the court but he’s supposed to feign humility during his HoF acceptance speech? Whatev. Jordan is the GOAT.

  • wifeinthong says:

    any other version of Dana would be dissapointing

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