Category Archives: Dana White

Dana White Loves Analogies

Here’s a Dana White gem for you, from a recent interview with Carlos Arias of the Orange County Register. This is White’s response to a question about competitors in the MMA business:

“You come over to my house this weekend and we kick back and watch TV. We put on (expletive) NASCAR. We’re like, ‘Holy (expletive). Look at all the (expletive) people at this race. All those fans and this and that. These guys got television deals and merchandise deals and all this crazy (expletive). You know what? Let’s steal two of their drivers, and let’s start our own (expletive) company. We’ll call it (expletive), you know, GASCAR instead of (expletive) NASCAR.’ That’s how (expletive) stupid it is.”

Now, I love comparing two things that are different and making them sound the same just as much as the next guy, but I find this viewpoint troubling. White’s contention here is that competing MMA organizations are “(expletive) stupid” because they hold MMA events similar to those held by the UFC, though they are not the UFC. This, in the business world, is called competition. It’s kind of like how Pepsi sells a similar product to that of Coca-Cola, though they are in fact two completely different companies.

By Dana White’s logic, that makes Pepsi “(expletive) stupid”. See? Fun with analogies.

It should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with White’s comic book-type persona to hear him argue in favor of a UFC monopoly. If you read the interview, it’s pretty clear that the OC Register’s Carlos Arias has zero problem going along for the ride with his leading questions, such as this one, doing the driving:

“Everybody says there is this big surge and rising popularity for mixed martial arts, but it seems like it’s the UFC getting this big surge and poularity [sic] rather than the sport itself? How do you see it?

Gee Carlos, I wonder how Dana White sees it, now that you asked in so cooperative a fashion. Let’s find out:

“You’re the first (expletive) smart guy that I’ve talked to who has actually really caught that. They come out with all these demos and all these numbers and all theses [sic] things that mixed martial arts is doing. Mixed martial arts isn’t doing that, the UFC is.”

That’s called softball, ladies and gentleman. But my point is that, yes, of course Dana White thinks it’s stupid to have to deal with competitors. That’s why he bad-mouths them every chance he gets, why he does everything in his power to try and hinder them, and why he’s so receptive to a question suggesting that any success MMA is enjoying is solely because of the UFC and, by extension, Dana White.

But whatever he says, remember this, fight fans: competition is good, especially for fans and fighters. White likes to make comparisons between the UFC and other pro sports leagues. In the past, he’s pointed out that there’s only one NBA, one NFL, and so on.

But here’s where that analogy falls apart. Those are leagues. They serve to unify the different teams and help them co-promote. The NFL doesn’t decide how much Randy Moss gets paid. Because the league is made up of many separately owned and operated entities, he is free to get as much as he can (within pre-set limits) by pitting them against one another in a bidding war. The UFC doesn’t work that way. The UFC gets to tell fighters who they’re fighting, when, and for how much. The fighters can take it or leave it, but because of the competing organizations they have options.

If you take away those competing organizations, fighter salaries will come down. The UFC will have less motivation to put on a compelling product. They’ll be secure in the knowledge that if you’re an MMA fan, you’ll pay to see their fights no matter what. Why? Because they’re the only game in town.

Dana White might not want to admit it, but the increased competition in the last few years has made the UFC and MMA stronger. It’s drawn more attention to the sport and created more fans. It’s also kept the UFC, at least to some extent, honest. The UFC is without a doubt the biggest show around, with the greatest stable of fighters. But if you think they would somehow get better without competitors nipping at their heels, you’re just plain wrong. Competition is good. It’s good for fans, fighters, and — whether he’ll admit it or not — for Dana White and the UFC.

Now, who wants to come over to my place this weekend and watch some (expletive) Gascar?

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Filed under Dana White, MMA, Sports, UFC

Fedor to M-1: I Just Need My Space Right Now

It was a whirlwind romance, but it seems the flame has burned out.  Fedor and M-1 are breaking up.  At least, that’s what one of Fedor’s agents, Apy Echteld, told ESPN’s Ryan Hockensmith.   Echteld claimed that an announcement was forthcoming in the next few days, and that Fedor would officially be a free agent.

It’s not hard to see what prompted this split.  Fedor wants to see other people.  And considering that M-1 has had him for about five months without even coming close to putting on an event of their own, who can blame him?  There he sits, surrounded by big promises and not much else from M-1 Global — which has shown itself to be little more than a Rent-a-Fedor operation thus far — while outside the MMA world turns without him, and the big fights pass him by.

One man who was very happy to hear this news was UFC president Dana White.  His inability to sign Fedor the first time he was a free agent precipitated the Randy Couture debacle.  Though that matter soon got ugly in other areas, Fedor joining the UFC could be the impetus that Couture and the UFC both need to put their differences aside and make this highly anticipated bout happen.

But, would White be willing to take another go at signing Fedor, whose abilities he has publicly disparaged many times, even once calling his management team “crazy Russians”?

“Absolutely, 100 percent, in a heartbeat,” White told ESPN. “People think he’s the best—I don’t, not even close. But if it’s somehow possible, I would make it happen.”

Granted, none of this is going to happen easily.  At the moment, no announcement about Fedor leaving M-1 has been made, and some in the MMA world have cast doubt upon the possibility.  One notable shift in the dialogue is the fact that it’s now Echteld doing the talking for Fedor, and not Vadim Finklestein, Fedor’s longtime manager.  But then, we also have to remember that Finklestein also has a stake in M-1.  If Fedor’s on the outs with the organization, he may also be looking to split from Finklestein, who guided him in that direction to begin with.

It’s still too early to know exactly what’s going to happen, but the wheels seem to be in motion.  Now we just have to wait and see how M-1 is going to take the breakup.  Something tells me she’s the kind that doesn’t let go easily, especially since Fedor is all she’s got.  Attention-grabbing fake suicide attempt, anyone?  Maybe an “accidental” pregnancy?

Okay, this metaphor has officially gone too far.  I’ll stop now.

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Filed under Dana White, Fedor Emelianenko, MMA, Sports, UFC

Dana White Implores Couture to “Be a Man”

Apparently unsatisfied with calling Couture a liar in the press and suing him in court, UFC president Dana White seems now to be embarking upon a campaign intended to shame Randy Couture into returning to the Octagon. Just recently White called Couture out publicly in the Canadian Press:

“Come on Captain America, step up and be a man and give these guys the opportunity to win the title,” White said.

“He’s the heavyweight champion. He signed a contract with us less than a year ago and I expect him to honour it. And I expect him to be a standup guy and give these guys the opportunities they gave him.”

When I hear of a quote like this coming from Dana White, I edge further toward the conclusion that he is purposely making himself the most hateable figure in the sport. Note the sarcastic use of the “Captain America” nickname for Couture, the implication that somehow his manhood is in jeopardy. This is pure Vince McMahon meets Lex Luthor. White obviously doesn’t believe that an incendiary remark like this will actually make Couture come back, so he’s settling for potshots from a comfortable distance.

It’s also interesting that White is now trying to frame the issue as if Couture is denying anyone else an opportunity at the UFC heavyweight title. He’s doing this, mind you, on the same weekend that two men are fighting for the UFC (interim) heavyweight title. Does that seem just intolerably disingenuous to anyone else?

It’s not as if the UFC has never taken a title from one person who can’t or won’t compete in their organization (B.J. Penn, Sean Sherk, etc,) and given it to someone else. White has said that he is purposely not stripping Couture of the title, vowing “we’ll hold on forever”, with the implication that it serves as a useful legal bargaining chip.

So now White wants to have it both ways. He wants to keep the title around Couture’s waist while simultaneously offering a different heavyweight title to Sylvia or Nogueira, and he also wants to criticize Couture for not defending the title that the UFC is insisting he maintain against his will. Have we all got that, now? Good. Just wanted to be clear.

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Filed under Dana White, MMA, Randy Couture, Sports, UFC

A Black Day for MMA: UFC Sues Randy Couture For ‘Irreparable Damage’

It’s finally happened. The UFC has filed a lawsuit against their former heavyweight champion, alleging “irreparable damage”, “numerous intentional torts”, and conspiracy. Now things are going to get nasty. According to a report in the Las Vegas Review Journal, the UFC is seeking in excess of $10,000 in damages from Couture, as well as an injunction prohibiting him from participating in any competing promotion.

So much for working things out like gentlemen.

“What’s really tough for me, to be honest, is we have been friends for a very long time,” said Dana White. “The hard part is that he is not living up to his obligations. Captain America is not keeping his word.”

And so what do you do, naturally, to this friend who has been an ambassador for your sport and company? You sue him. For damages. In excess of $10,000. That should set things right.

There’s a lot we could say here about who we think is right or wrong. There are questions about what fulfills a contract, what constitutes acceptable compensation, and all that will likely be worked out in court. But the only thing I can think about right now if just how sad this is. Randy Couture, of all people, is getting sued. And by the UFC.

If MMA had any innocence left to lose, consider it lost. Now we’re just another big time pro sport, with big time pro sports problems. Are we happy now?

What’s interesting about this suit is that it alleges Couture has done irreparable harm to the UFC, presumably by speaking out against their bonus system and the way they handle closed-door fighter compensation and negotiations. I say presumably because that’s the only negative thing he’s said about the organization, at least that I can recall. If the UFC’s position is that this has done harm to the organization, I’d be interested in hearing them explain exactly how. Very interested.

If they claim that the way Couture characterized their bonus system is untrue, then that’s something. They’ll have to prove it. I’m not sure how they’ll be able to do that, and to my knowledge no one — fighter or manager or UFC representative — has taken issue with Couture’s description of the bonus system thus far. If they don’t claim that his statements were untrue, then it’s hard for me to see how his statements have caused them irreparable harm.

Maybe that’s what bothers me most about this suit. Trying to get the guy to stick to his contract, to come back and fight or at least not fight for someone else, that makes a degree of sense. Suing him for damages and alleging intentional tort, that’s just sticking it to him. Is this how the UFC wants to be perceived? As the organization that repays Couture for all the memorable moments and pay-per-view buys by going after him in court?

Consider the best possible outcome for the UFC in this situation: they win their lawsuit, along with $10,000 in damages (which means, what, Dana White can finally afford to really pimp out his Hummer?), Couture can’t fight (Fedor) in any other organization, his gym (Xtreme Couture) can’t field an IFL team, and the UFC will have made a point to all the fighters in their stable.

That point? Take what we give you, whatever it happens to be, or we’ll drum you out of the sport. That’s what they want to do to Couture. They want to force him to fulfill his contract by fighting in the UFC (which he really can’t do now, unless he wants to be seen as the man who cowed to their tactics), or make it impossible for him to compete anywhere else, effectively ending one of the most prolific and inspiring MMA careers of all time. And, I’m sorry, that will be considered a victory for the UFC? Really?

What the UFC isn’t seeing right now is that they have much more to lose than gain from this lawsuit. Dana White can go on and on about Couture being his friend and how sorry he is to have to sue him for $10,000 worth of tort and damages, but do you know what that’s going to do? It’s going to make it so that he can never again refer to any fighter as his “friend” without that fighter putting his hand on his wallet and backing toward the door. It’s going to make the UFC seem like an exploitative organization, the one that ended Randy Couture’s career before his time.

It’s a shame when money comes between “friends”. It truly is.

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Filed under Dana White, MMA, Randy Couture, Sports, UFC

Penn-Stevenson Fight For Interim Title, And I’m As Confused As Ever

My brain hurts. It’s tired of trying to sort this mess out, and it’s getting nowhere. But it’s not my brain’s fault, it’s the UFC’s. Their tortured logic is driving me crazy, and they don’t even care.

If you’re on the UFC’s mailing list, as I am, you received an email alerting you that B.J. Penn and Joe Stevenson will be fighting for the “interim” lightweight title at UFC 80 in January. And if you also compulsively follow MMA news, as I do, you know that Dana White has said he will not strip lightweight champion Sean Sherk of his title because of the way the California State Athletic Commission has bungled his appeal of a positive steroid case.

But if Sherk isn’t being stripped, why is there an interim title at all?

This feels like one of those situations that only gets more confusing as you try to sort it out. I almost understand the reasoning. White seems to feel that Sherk is innocent when it comes to steroid use. From what I’ve heard, the levels of nandrolene detected in Sherk’s system were so low that it’s not so unbelievable to think this might be a false positive.

So, okay, I get it. White feels that the CSAC, which has a reputation as the most difficult commission for MMA organizations to deal with, by far, is screwing this thing up. They postponed Sherk’s appeal hearing because they didn’t read all the material submitted by his lawyer, which makes them seem more like the Mayberry Athletic Commission than the California one. White was angered by this, as was Sherk, and understandably so.

That’s why White announced that Sherk (who White says he considers a friend) will not be stripped of his title. Okay. That makes a certain kind of sense. It seems like he might be blowing off the CSAC, but maybe somebody should.

But now I have to ask again. Why is there an interim title?

I understand that Sherk is stilll under suspension pending his appeal, but if the UFC’s position is that Sherk is going to hold onto that belt unless the CSAC can produce photos of a needle going into “The Muscle Shark’s” arm, there shouldn’t be any interim title. It’s meaningless. The winner of the interim title has essentially just earned number one contender status, only he’s got a belt to show for it.

I’m not going to pretend I don’t know why the UFC is doing this. They don’t want the belt to be out of circulation while they wait for this appeal, because a title fight always makes for an instant main event on a pay-per-view card. They already have a heavyweight title with no one to defend it after Randy Couture’s “resignation”, and they’ve kept their welterweight title in reality TV land lo these many months.

But they can’t have it both ways. They can’t refuse to strip the title-holder and also have two other guys fight for his title. That essentially creates two champions in one weight class, which defeats the purpose of having a champion at all.

Do you see now what I’ve been going through? Maybe it’s my fault for even trying to understand this, or for assuming that it’s supposed to make sense. As it is I feel like I’m standing in the mall and looking at one of those magic pictures that has an image of a sailboat somewhere in it, only I can’t see it and I just keep staring.

Much like those magic pictures, this situation will leave me with nothing but a headache and a nagging sense of failure. I just know it.

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Filed under B.J. Penn, Dana White, Joe Stevenson, MMA, Sean Sherk, Sports, UFC

Pithy Thoughts For a Monday Morning

The new edition of my weekly column is live at Crave Online . It focuses, naturally, on the issue of the moment regarding Dana White and Randy Couture. While I thoroughly enjoyed the back and forth between these two last week, I’m still baffled by some of White’s comments. Did he really say that Fedor sucks? Did he also really say that Fedor isn’t a top five heavyweight? Really?

Instead of arguing here that Fedor does not suck, which I take to be a given for any thinking MMA fan (at 26-1, if Fedor sucks, who’s good?), instead I’m going to argue that we should all extend some sympathy towards White. Obviously the man is hurting.

Why else would he lash out like this only after his repeated attempts to sign Fedor to a UFC contract? It’s like a boy in junior high who gets rejected by a girl he likes. The first thing he does is go tell everyone he knows that she’s ugly or stupid or a slut. Even other junior high boys know he’s just saying things that he doesn’t believe in order to make himself feel better. The appropriate response there isn’t indignation; it’s pity.

Anyway, I look forward to seeing a future match for the now-vacant UFC heavyweight title to determine who doesn’t suck. My guess is one of the participants will be Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, who Fedor beat twice, and my other guess is that he’ll probably win if he’s going up against Tim Sylvia, which seems likely at this point.

That’s going to be a tough moment. I mean, the only thing worse than having a heavyweight champion who sucks is having one who was beaten twice by someone who sucks.  That would really, for lack of a better word, suck.

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Filed under Dana White, Fedor Emelianenko, MMA, Randy Couture, Sports, UFC

Dueling Press Conferences: Dana White vs. Randy Couture

When Dana White announced that he would hold a press conference on the same day as the one already announced by departed UFC heavyweight champion Randy Couture, it wasn’t hard to see what he had in mind. When he scheduled his media conference call to begin just thirty minutes before Couture’s Las Vegas media reception, it was obvious. White wanted to take some attention off Couture and his complaints about the UFC, even if he wouldn’t admit it.

After a reporter pressed the UFC president on the issue of whether he intentionally held his press conference to coincide with Couture’s, White responded:

“We’ve got a lot of s— going on and we’re here to talk about it. Is it a coincidence I signed Brock Lesnar, made Chuck Liddell-Wanderlei Silva, and signed a new Spike deal in the same week? …Am I doing a press conference to f-ck Randy Couture? No. I’m here to announce things.”

As for those things he was there to announce, most of them had already been made public. The signing of Brock Lesnar was announced at UFC 77, where Rogan did an interview with the former WWE star. The Liddell-Silva match had been advertised on the DirectTV website for days before its official announcement at the Spike TV Scream Awards on Tuesday night. And the new Spike TV deal is essentially an extension of the current Spike TV deal.

This was the big news that simply could not be announced on any other day or any other time? I don’t think so.

Obviously, the point was to pull media attention from Couture, whose press conference was streamed live on ProElite.com. That White used this tactic and then played innocent about it seems petty, but it’s not hard to understand why he felt it was necessary.

To hear Couture tell it, the UFC hadn’t been giving him the respect (read: money) that he deserved. He directly addressed a Yahoo! Sports article claiming he was in the middle of a four-fight contract that would pay him $3.25-3.75 million per fight, by showing his unsigned bout agreements that had him making around $750,000 per fight after pay-per-view bonuses were factored in.

Some people will point out that this contract doesn’t include the bonus money that the UFC hands out after their fights, which even Couture said is sometimes more than the athlete earns from the contract itself. But even if Couture was receiving a $1 million dollar bonus for each fight, he would still make only about half what the Yahoo! report claimed. Not to mention, the bonuses are not guaranteed in his contract, so it can hardly be said that he was in the middle of a contract that was due to pay him anywhere in the neighborhood of $3 million per fight (unless the pay-per-view buys eclipsed every known record several times over).

This bonus system, it seems, has played no small part in the dispute between Couture in the UFC.

Couture said that the rift with the UFC grew after they failed to give him a bonus for his win over Gabriel Gonzaga in August. White, to the best of my knowledge, doesn’t dispute this. Couture said he received large bonuses for his fight with Chuck Liddell (which he lost) and his comeback fight against Tim Sylvia (which he won via decision after five rounds).

So the question here is, why wasn’t his performance against Gonzaga worthy of a bonus?

Anyone who saw that fight knows it was a gritty, dominating performance by Couture. He stopped Gonzaga early in the third round after having his arm broken by a kick earlier in the bout. This wasn’t worth a bonus, but getting knocked out by Liddell was?

Of course, you could make the argument that since it’s a bonus, he has no right to expect it. Couture painted a picture of the UFC bonus system that seem arbitrary and capricious, saying the checks were handed out in the locker room after the fights and were “at the discretion of the UFC.”

But if the bonuses regularly match or eclipse the contract money, and if he had received one for two previous fights of varying levels of success, it’s understandable that Couture would be confused at not receiving one here. From his perspective, it’s as if his pay had been cut in half even after he performed as well as anyone could have hoped.

Couture said he tendered his resignation two and a half weeks after a meeting in which he asked White and the UFC management why he hadn’t received a bonus. They gave him no answer, he said. Apparently, that was the wrong thing to do.

White seems to like to blame Couture’s “Hollywood agent” for the way this situation has unfolded, but he’d do better to look within his own house. A secretive and whimsical bonus system that isn’t based on any predetermined criteria and which can make a drastic difference in the money an athlete takes home is a recipe for discontent.

Certainly, Couture’s complaint is as much about money as it is about respect. But in the world of professional sports, the two are often synonymous. White should know that. And if he really wanted to get Couture back in the UFC, he’d swallow his pride and make amends. Maybe he will. Maybe we will see Couture back in the Octagon someday, maybe even against Fedor Emelianenko (who White says “sucks”). But don’t bet on it.

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Filed under Dana White, MMA, Randy Couture, Sports, UFC