UFC president Dana White is understandably frustrated with Women’s Bantamweight Champion Amanda Nunes, but his emotional outburst toward her does nothing to help grow his business in a time when star power is a diminishing resource.
The only star that is created by these diatribes is… Dana White.
To recap: Just hours before UFC 213, Nunes pulled out of her scheduled main even title defense opposite Valentina Shevchenko, citing an illness. White publicly stated that Nunes had been cleared by doctors, but was unwilling to fight. The day after UFC 213, Nunes took to social media to explain that she was in fact cleared based on blood tests and hydration, but was experiencing a bout with chronic sinusitis.
It is perfectly reasonable for Dana White to be fuming after losing a main event on a card that had already been through several makeovers, but it is also unproductive to air grievances about someone that White will have to actively promote in the very near future.
Sure, White has gone on the claim that he will never headline a card with Nunes again. (If you believe that, I have a pyramid scheme you might be interested in.) Nonetheless, unless Nunes is stripped of her title, White will have to sell a card with a champion that has had her mental toughness questioned by the promoter.
While it is refreshing for a sports executive to not spew clichés when dealing with the media, it is counterintuitive to constantly disparage fighters, especially when there is no reciprocation.
When Ronda Rousey, Connor McGregor, or Chael Sonnen publicly demean future opponents, they are building interest in an athletic contest, with the goal of increasing their payday. Similarly, when a Diaz brother takes swipes at UFC management, they are solidifying their brand. On the other hand, when Dana White takes shots at Amanda Nunes or Demetrius Johnson, he is building the Dana White brand, but not cultivating the viability of his champions.
White’s public persona might play well with those that are only concerned with the $60 that they just submitted their cable provider, but those same consumers will never pay to see Dana White fight in an Octagon. Public feuds between UFC management and fighters are not a new or novel, they just do not have a place in the 2017 UFC landscape. To put it mildly, 2017 has been a rebuilding year, with mixed results.
Before Justin Gaethje put on a performance for the ages against Michael Johnson on the eve of UFC 213, the UFC lacked a transcendent fight or potential supernova fighter in 2017. Coming off of two years of producing spectacular main events and crossover stars, 2017 has seen a regression for the promotion.
Of course, White does not have the power to wave a magic wand and produce new mainstream stars, but he does have a pulpit to cut the legs out from under his current independent contractors. Whether he likes to admit it or not, Dana White is still the most powerful man in MMA. That power does in fact come with great responsibility.
If the man who has a large financial stake in his champions selling pay-per-views tells the public that Amanda Nunes’s inability to fight was “90 percent mental,” why should public feel compelled to spend hard-earned money on one of her fights?
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