It’s hard to know what to make of UFC president Dana White. Is he an egomaniac, or a deft businessman? Is he purposely portraying himself as the thoroughly unlikable boss, ala the WWE’s Vince McMahon? Or is that his real personality? Does he knowingly draw comparisons to supervillain Lex Luther, or is that just a coincidence?
His most recent rantings are especially vexing. In an interview with Sam Caplan, who writes the excellent MMA news blog “Five Ounces of Pain“, White had more harsh words for the International Fight League:
“The IFL’s model is stupid; the whole thing is going away. It doesn’t concern me at all if the IFL goes away. They’re not building any superstars — that thing is just eating up air space on MyNetworkTV right now. I would have told you that it (IFL) was going to go away the first day it came out. I did, I told people if you want to lose your money, buy the IFL stock. I’ve always felt that way about the IFL.”
In the interest of full disclosure, I am employed by the IFL, and am therefore somewhat obligated to say nice things about it, but this is absurd. If White always felt that the IFL was “going away”, why did he spend a tremendous amount of time and money trying to keep it from ever getting off the ground?
He threatened to blackball fighters and trainers who became involved with it, and even went to court to try and destroy the league before it ever started. Does that sound like something you’d do to a competitor you thought was going away? And if White tries to claim that the IFL hasn’t built any stars, maybe he’d better go visit Miletich Fighting Systems in Iowa and watch the IFL’s top heavyweight, Ben Rothwell, beat up former UFC heavyweight champ Tim Sylvia in sparring sessions.
He also addressed the Renato “Babalu” Sobral situation, discussing why he made the decision to cut Sobral from his UFC contract after he held onto a choke against David Heath to “teach him a lesson” even after he had already submitted:
“I’m not your typical head of a sports organization where I got to get up there and say all the right s—. I’m in the fight game. These guys are fighters; they’re tough guys. And things happen sometimes. Do I think that the media was totally overreacting about the Babalu thing? Some of them were. Yeah. But they’re not fighters, they don’t get it. It’s a whole different world, this fight world. Whether it’s boxing, kickboxing, MMA, whatever it is, these guys are different types of people, and I understand them. I really do.”
Seriously? Now Dana White is telling us that nobody understands the fighters like he does? It makes me think that he actually believes these guys would be nice and friendly to him even if he weren’t in control of their professional and financial futures.
It’s one thing to have a public persona that’s different from your private one. If he were consciously cultivating this image of the asshole boss who nobody likes but everybody has to put up with, I’d be all for it. Vince McMahon’s feud with “Stone Cold” Steve Austin was built on this premise, and that’s probably the last time I really enjoyed pro wrestling.
But comments like these make me think White is just divorced from reality. To hear the fighters talk about him (and man, do they love to talk about him), it seems like they all realize he’s a guy who couldn’t become a real fighter himself, but can’t let go of it.
To quote a very prominent former UFC champion who shall remain nameless: “Here’s a guy who used to walk around in boxing gyms carrying spit buckets, and now he pretends to be a tough guy just because he’s the president of an organization and no one is willing to tell him different.”
Which explains why he’s always swearing and talking tough, telling guys that they’ll fight whoever he tells them to, threatening to “bitch slap” fighters who test positive for steroids.
Pat Miletich put it best when he said, in regards to the steroid remark, “obviously Dana isn’t physically capable of doing that…his words are a cover for his insecurities.”
The hell of it is, White seems like a pretty smart businessman at times. He resurrected the UFC to make it a highly profitable, mainstream sports organization. He acquired Pride, including all their footage and most of their stars. He helped save MMA in America, and now the UFC puts on one of the greatest shows in the world of sports.
So why does he need to keep doing this? Isn’t it enough to be good at what you do? I genuinely think people want to like Dana White. If only he wouldn’t make it so hard.