Failure # 6: Not signing Fedor Emelianenko before his first loss
Dana White's negotiations with Fedor were epic. Finally, in the summer of 2009, White was talking like the signing was a done deal:
"This Fedor thing has gone on and on and on," White said in the post-UFC 100 press conference. "Eventually, Fedor's going to be here. I want Fedor. I want him to come to the UFC and everything else.
"This guy (Brock Lesnar) just won the heavyweight title, and we'll end up getting that deal done. And then we'll do Brock vs. Fedor, and it'll be a huge fight."
Brock vs. Fedor never happened, though. The key breaking point for White was reportedly the demand for M-1 and the UFC to share promotional consideration. White is notorious for refusing every valid opportunity to co-promote as if sharing the spotlight would taint the UFC's superiority and give smaller leagues more credibility.
Failing to get the deal with Emelianenko done actually did more to damage the UFC's superiority when Fabricio Werdum ruined the Russian phenom, though. Rather than have one of the UFC's best heavyweights like Randy Couture or Brock Lesnar put that first epic beating on Fedor, Strikeforce selected an opponent from within their own system to vanquish the virtually undefeated Emelianenko.
Failure # 7: Not Making the GSP vs. Silva Fight
Although Chael Sonnen surprised more than a few people with his near dominance of Anderson Silva, George St. Pierre is the top choice for potential opponents for Silva. The Spider has made mincemeat of just about every major opponent he's faced in the octagon before Sonnen:
George St. Pierre vs. Silva is a match-up that has the potential to be a phenomenal fight, but Dana White hasn't made it happen and doesn't seem inclined to ever make it happen. As a result fans are really missing out on a battle that would ultimately decide who is the pound for pound best MMA fighter on the planet right now. Dana White instead decided to give us a fight between Josh Koscheck and GSP. That one could turn out to be an epic battle and a good idea, but it's still not as awesome as it would be to see Silva fight St. Pierre.
This might end up being a failure White avenges down the line, but as it stands there are a lot of obstacles that have to be overcome before these two square off. Silva must get past a rematch with Sonnen first and GSP will have to put together an amazing showing against Koscheck.
Failure 8: Not allowing an immediate rematch between Lyoto Machida and Quinton "Rampage" Jackson
The judges clearly had blinders on in determining the winner of the Jackson vs. Machida fight at UFC 123. Dana White seems to be sticking up for what amounted to a disappointing performance by Jackson. Even Jackson acknowledged his own inferiority after the fight by raising Machida's hand and sitting down against the cage fence with his head in his hands.
The rush to dismiss the idea of a rematch was suspect and must have made a lot of fans wonder what Dana was trying to hide. Did he have specific plans for Jackson that would have been harder to fulfill if he lost that fight? Was he ultimately paying Machida back for the gift decision he got against Rua? Whatever the reason for White's blatant refusal to settle the controversy with a quick rematch, his opinion of who really won the fight shouldn't over-ride the conclusions of the fighter who actually experienced the battle himself.
White's characterization of this fight as a clear Jackson win is troubling, because it was closer than that. At the least it would have been better scored a draw, and at most Machida deserved the victory, but it's a complete lie to call the fight a clear win for Rampage. It just makes Dana White look like he doesn't even understand the sport he claims to have revolutionized.
Failure # 9: Not getting MMA regulated in New York.
UFC 78 was held in Newark, New Jersey at the Prudential Center on November 17, 2007, a brand new facility that allowed lots of New York City fans to see a fight close to home. Hometown hero Frankie Edgar was able to begin to cement his legacy that night by beating Spencer Fisher in a one-sided fight.
Since that night there have been no major breaks in getting New York State to regulate mixed martial arts so there can be MMA matches in the city that never sleeps. The UFC just can't manage to take a bite out of the Big Apple no matter how hard they try. They've had fights in England, Germany, and Ireland, but they can't even break into the biggest city in the United States. The UFC brass talks about their new strategic partner in Abu Dhabi that will help them expand globally, but they can't even expand nationally.
Failure # 10: Thinking The Ultimate Fighter Would Never Fly.
Dana White had no idea how important The Ultimate Fighter would be to popularizing the UFC and was against the reality show concept at first:
Once the show did get off the ground, White allowed the fighters to drink and destroy their living quarters with reckless abandon. Finally one fighter, Jesse Taylor, wound up getting thrown off the show for his drunken antics. Another Fighter, Mikey Burnett, injured himself during an alcohol induced goal-line stand against a wall in the house. He later filed a suit that is still ongoing against the UFC, directly related to his time on the show and the injuries he sustained as a result.
The Ultimate Fighter truly gave the UFC a foundation and allowed fans easier access to find out what MMA was all about. Most importantly for Dana, it made him the star he is today. It's hard to imagine this is the same guy who said no way to the concept when it was presented to him. The show connected him and his fighters to the mainstream fan base they now enjoy by personalizing their experiences and exposing the best and the worst aspects of the sport for all to see.
The company's partnership with Spike TV probably wouldn't be as strong as it is today without TUF, too. All around, this should have been a no-brainer, "let's do it" decision for White. Instead he balked at it, but it happened anyway against his wishes, proving Dana White has got to have the best dumb luck a guy can possibly have.
Even with all these failures so many fans think he is God's greatest gift to the sport of MMA. The reality so few folks really see or look deep enough to confront is that Dana White is nothing more than a flashy puppet, a sideshow who became the main attraction by accident. The UFC is not really so successful because of him. It's more so a success in spite of him...and all his many failures.
Thanks to our friends at Bet Internet Sportsbook for this article.