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.