Before I begin, let me make it clear that I am a huge fan of Dana White. He, along with the Fertitta brothers, Frank and Lorenzo, and their business partner Dana made the UFC what it is today. For those who are not in the know, the UFC is a 4 billion dollar company that they bought for 2 million in January 2001. That is an astonishing return in just 15 years, in any business model in the world, let alone a sport that was on the brink of bankruptcy, banned in several states, and headed into financial meltdown.
However, there can be no denying that Dana White, who is the public face of the business, and the president of the UFC has made more than his fair share of mistakes. In fact, that is being kind. Some of his rants, tweets, and gaffs have undeniably hurt the company. This article looks at just five of them. There are many more besides. Strap yourself in, here we go…
5. Anderson Silva
Anderson Silva is the best of all time. The G.O.A.T. At his peak, I can barely put into words how good this man was, he was the Middleweight Champion from 2006 until 2013. It pains me to say, but anyone who started following MMA and Anderson Silva from UFC 162 onwards will wonder what the fuss is all about. At the aforementioned event, Silva got knocked out while pretending to be hurt. Since then he then lost the rematch due to a horrific leg break, then won a lackluster decision against Nick Diaz, which was then overturned to a No Contest, due to a drugs test failure. He then lost, albeit controversially, to the current UFC Middleweight Champion Michael Bisping in London and stepped up to face the UFC Lightweight Champion Daniel Cormier on two days notice at UFC 200 where he was out wrestled and shut down completely for three rounds.
However, there was a time, at the peak of his powers were Anderson was untouchable. Against Forrest Griffin at UFC 183 he quite literally looked like Neo from the Matrix as he went up in weight and dismantled the former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion and knocked him out with a step back jab. Yes, a fade away jab. I have never seen anyone, ever, in the history of combat, get knocked out by a jab. He beat his arch nemesis Chael Sonnen twice, submitted Former Pride Champion Dan Henderson, and left a highlight reel of awesomeness against other foes such as Rich Franklin, Demian Maia, and Vitor Belfort.
So why Dana White, did you not organize a super fight against either George St Pierre or Jon Jones during his prime? Silva was keen to fight GSP, and while the former Canadian Welterweight Champion was less keen, it was feasible, and Silva has fought at Light Heavyweight a number of times, so why not get the Jones fight booked?
Now the time has passed, the window has closed, but I still can’t quite forgive the UFC and Dana White in particular for not making one of the two fights happen.
4. Not bringing in the best fighters
The UFC has stated, several times, it is where the best in the world come to compete. However, this is not always true. Most of the most promising and proven talent does at one point end up being in the UFC. But not all. The most obvious example is Fedor ‘The Last Emperor’ Emelianenko, the former undisputed King of Heavyweights. The UFC may yet sign him, but you only have to look at his last fight against the gutsy, but limitedly talented Fabio Maldonado to know that Father Time has caught up with him. He is by far the sole example, though.
Ben Askren is without a doubt the finest welterweight competing outside of the UFC and it is only through Dana White’s stubbornness and pettiness that he is not competing. Ben is a wrestler and Dana thinks his style of fighting is boring. In fact, he had this to say on Twitter regarding the Olympic Silver medalist who at the time was 10-0.
“When ambien can’t sleep it takes Ben Askren. The most boring fighter in MMA history. I would rather watch flys f—“
It shows a lack of respect, and it is foolish at best to criticise a potential star for your organization. Add to the list Shinya Aoki, Joachim Hansen, Ricardo Arona, Rickson Gracie, and Michael Chandler and you now have a murderers row of elite talent that never competed in the UFC. The best against the best… with several unfortunate notable exception.
3. Sacking Sitich
Jacob “Stitch” Duran is the world’s most recognizable cut man. By all accounts, he is one of the good guys of the business and many fighters personally requested for him to be their cut man, and to tape their hands etc.
On July 21, Duran announced that he had been let go from the UFC due to comments he made about the organization’s Reebok sponsorship deal. Many UFC Fighters expressed their disappointment, including high profile names such as Chris Weidman, Anthony Johnson, Tim Kennedy, Stefan Struve, and even “Big” John McCarthy.
It is sad and foolish to let some petty comments, in the land of the free, to have such a negative effect on your business. The whole situation could have been handled so much better, but he has now signed a contract with Belator in March of this year.
2. Lamenting Boring Fighters
If you run a fighting promotion, you understand that fighters want, and need, to win their matches. You are meant to promote the fighters themselves and their fights. Instead, White lambasts boring fighters in which they obviously try to win via decision. Not every fight can be a barn burning, rock ’em, sock ’em, edge-of-your-seat masterpiece. You only have to look at boxing to know this. He should give bonuses, which he does, to exciting fighters, and concentrate on the positives rather than critiquing a wrestler for wrestling a kick-boxer because that is surely common sense and what the sport is about.
1. Attacking GSP
George St-Pierre first fought in the UFC at UFC 46 way back in January 2004. His career sits at 25-2, and he has avenged both losses with subsequent victories in rematches. He captured the Welterweight Title in 2006 and again in 2007 which he then kept before stepping away from the sport, having defended his belt nine times all the way up to UFC 167 2013. He won his last fight by decision against Johnny Hendricks, and while many observers called the fight for Hendricks, the judges ruled in his favor.
He was a model champion, and he was never involved in any drugs controversies or outside scandal. He was respectful to his opponents, had a complete MMA game, and put on some of the finest performances the game had ever seen. Added to that, he brought with him a legion of fans, mainly from Canada but also from around the world, and he did everything the UFC asked him to do. Which is why it was all the more shocking, after his last defense of the belt against Johnny Hendricks, GSP decided to take a break from the sport and has not been seen since. White had this to say on the matter.
“First of all, that decision that happens, you don’t just say, ‘Hey, I’m going to take a while off, maybe I’ll be back or maybe I won’t.’ You owe it to the fans, you owe it to that belt, you owe it to this company, and you owe it to Johny Hendricks to give him that opportunity to fight again. This is the thing that makes people not like fights. I don’t even know what to say. I’m still so blown away by it. George knew he lost, his corner knew he lost. Hendricks knew he won, his corner knew he won… These guys, this commission is just despicably horrible.”
Then when asked to clarify why he was taking a break, one of the myriad of reasons GSP gave was due to the UFC’s, at the time, lackluster drug testing program.
“So far, there’s been some nice words, but nothing’s been done,” GSP said.” As long as they do nothing, I for sure won’t come back.”
White had this to say in response: “If he wants to talk man to man, he can see us face to face. But everything that he said is ridiculous.”
Far from ridiculous, at the time the UFC’s drug testing was barely in existence, and while they now have it in place properly with USADA, GSP was quite right to demand more from the company at the time.
The point is, it was one of their champions, one of the best of all time, and rather than backing him, agreeing and coming to a mutual agreement, Dana decided to be a petulant child. What hope do the other athletes have if Dana treated GSP like this?
(Christopher King of Arundel, England is a new MMATorch contributor. He got hooked on MMA after watching UFC 114 featuring “Rampage” Jackson vs. Rashad Evans and from there, he says, “I spent a ridiculous amount of money and time watching every event from UFC 1 up to the present so I could understand the history of the sport, the fighters, the weight divisions and everything else in between. It was the style of fighting that drew me in, in order to see what martial art was the most effective, and from there, the fighters themselves, their story, their training and the sacrifices that they go through.” Follow him on Twitter – @ChristofKing)