Dana White is equally praised and ridiculed at times among the MMA faithful around the world. Sometimes he is the sport's own worst enemy even while he consistently maintains that he and the UFC's top brass saved and revived the sport when they bought the league from Bob Meyrowitz for a couple million bucks.
The reality is Dana White was a boxercise instructor and MMA agent before he was UFC president, and he had little management skills. Frank Shamrock called Dana out early and often, and at the height of his career Shamrock lambasted White for losing millions of dollars put into the company by the Fertitta brothers:
Shamrock still criticizes White to this day and has an ongoing feud that's been unfolding in the public eye in recent months.
Under White the UFC claimed ownership and authorship of the unified MMA rules and the octagon cage setup. This happened even though there were plenty of octagons in use across the MMA landscape long before the UFC was using one. Additionally, there is no proof anyone involved with the UFC actually wrote up the unified rules that refined the sport to the point it could be regulated.
During one of my many interviews with past and present UFC stars, the most telling comment any fighter ever offered was, "There's something wrong with the sport when Dana White is the most recognizable figure in MMA."
Though some like the abrasive, in-your-face, f-bomb style White brings to the business and think it helps the sport, others can see right through it and realize Dana White is just a character who is killing the image of the sport, not an icon crafting it to perfection. Above all, people who heap praise on Dana White forget this guy has a staff full of great people who get overlooked and under-appreciated just because they don't ever get the kind of face time White does.
Most people who are rabid fans of White seem to always reference how he really tells it like it is, so this piece is meant to do just that. It's time to breakdown Dana White's top 10 failures since the Fertittas allowed him to be the face of the UFC.
Failure #1: THE FALL OF PRIDE
The UFC's purchase of PRIDE was presented to fans as a merger of sorts, and White publicly promised a Super Bowl of MMA and maintained the league would be kept intact moving forward upon announcing the buyout. The reality was PRIDE was the UFC's biggest competition and greatest threat. It had to be taken out for the UFC to become top dog. Few people know the intimate details of the PRIDE scandal because it is a very involved and complicated scheme involving hundreds of million dollars in loans that allowed Dana White and the Fertittas to pocket huge dividends on the strength of the business. Much of the best reporting on the subject was done by Zach Arnold at Fightopinion.com:
A detailed analysis from Phil Clark at Inside Fights explains why PRIDE should have endured:
The sad fact is so many fans still miss PRIDE due to the unique rules, the dynamics of fighting in a ring, and the longer round duration. White's failure to see the value in maintaining the brand also makes it harder for the UFC to recapture the Japanese audience and make inroads in the rest of the Asian market.
Failure #2: Not Fighting Tito Ortiz
Dana White's experience in fighting is extremely minimal. Although he was once a boxing instructor there's not much out there about how much competitive fighting he was ever involved in, if any. Yet, when Tito Ortiz set up his contract to include a clause about a boxing match with Dana White, for some reason White allowed it to be put in print.
Tito called White out on the carpet and the match was supposedly made:
“The special was all about Dana White, flying around in Lear jets,” Ortiz said. “We agreed to do a 50/50 split on revenues, but then he would never sign a bout agreement. I did all my medicals, just like a regular fight. Then they made it look like he was standing there at the weigh-ins and I didn’t show up.”
Ortiz and White eventually cleared up their differences without fighting, but the special White did on "the fight that never was" really took overkill to extremes. The production was set up to look like the fight was going to happen. Instead, White was made to look like a hero Tito was ducking. Though the reported reasons on why Ortiz backed out all centered around money, it's a good bet the UFC-owning Fertitta brothers helped put the quash on the battle. "This is a huge lose, lose situation for me and my brother Frank," said Lorenzo Fertitta in the actual show that aired about the fight that never actually materialized.
The main issue with even creating a buzz around this fight is that everyone should have had the foresight to see how useless sensationalizing something like this would turn out to be. Instead, the whole thing became one giant dog and pony show they force fed to MMA fans. If White had taken the fight seriously and gone the distance with the planning and organizing to ensure it really happened, all his comments about the UFC's fighters not trying hard enough would mean something. Now it's just the pot calling the kettle black each time he criticizes someone for not fighting hard enough.
Failure #3: We don't need Coke, Coke needs us.
The UFC's obscure sponsors in earlier years included Mickey's beer and Amp'd Mobile (which later went bankrupt). Back in June of 2007, during an NBC Sports interview Dana White scoffed at the idea of bigger name companies getting on the UFC bandwagon as sponsors:
“I’m cool with Mickey’s and Toyo Tires, man, believe me, you’ll never hear me bitch. The way that we’ve run this business and the way we have come up, think about it… we didn’t have any mainstream press, we didn’t have any mainstream sponsors, and look at how huge we are. I don’t fucking need Coke to keep doing what we’re doing, man. Believe me, the big time sponsors if they come on, of course that’d be fantastic. I don’t need ‘em. 18-to-34 year old males, they’re here hanging out with me. If Coke wants them, Coke needs to come to us.”
It took a few years after that White commentary for Harley Davidson and Bud Light--two of the biggest names to ever sponsor the UFC--to set up sponsor contracts for the middle of the mat real estate formerly owned by Xyience. White's casual dismissal of such a major potential corporate sponsor and his "we don't need anybody" attitude surely hampered the company's growth to some extent.
Failure #4: No Women in the UFC
For some reason, Dana White seems to think only guys can fight in MMA and women should stick to boxing. He's stated publicly his thoughts on the matter, indicating most recently that he feels the female ranks lack the kind of depth and talent that would make a UFC women's division feasible. Since the UFC is private, it will be tough to get any positive movement going to change White's mind.
Still, White should follow the example of Virginia Military Institute (VMI). In the wake of the first female cadet allowed at the Citadel in South Carolina, who had to fight tooth and nail with lawsuits just to break the all-male tradition there, VMI volunteered to allow women into the school and embraced the concept of integration of the sexes rather than battle it out in court. He should also get educated a bit more on the subject.
White is always bashing guys who don't go in there and fight bell to bell. Watch a women's fight in MMA and it's typically never slow. Women go into the cage or ring in other leagues and put on real shows as if they are conscious they're not only fighting for themselves but also all of womankind as well. And, as far as the talent pool White is out to lunch on that one, too.
The UFC still has no network TV deal and couldn't even get a berth on HBO when they tried. Yet, women in MMA did break into network television circles recently with their own reality show:
Failure #5: Allowing freak show fighters to taint the league.
James Toney made "stupid money" to fight Randy Couture with virtually no MMA training, and Kimbo Slice fought his way through "The Ultimate Fighter" house only to get wiped out by everyone he faced other than Houston Alexander.
Bringing these fighters into the UFC and hyping them up like they were both better than they were was purely bad for business. Both have since decided boxing would be a better choice for them.
Dana White caved to the pressure after Toney stalked him and barked at him in public every chance he could to negotiate a deal to fight in the UFC. Kimbo might have been better and done well in the octagon if White had not decided to make Slice's knee issues so public by way of TUF.
Even worse than bringing Toney and Slice in to fight in the first place was the treatment the UFC and White gave to these two guys. Despite Kimbo's lack of success on TUF, White put him on big cards against big names. White even brought in "the Kimbo Killer" Seth Petruzelli for what would become a lost cause (Petruzelli was just recently released). Toney, with no MMA skills whatsoever, was paid 6 figures to fight Couture when some MMA fighters who have trained virtually all their lives still regularly receive paltry purses around $10,000 per fight.
...To Be Continued
Thanks to our friends at Bet Horizon Sportsbook for this article.