By Zach Arnold | December 30, 2010
I won’t transcribe the interview entirely, but I will say that what he says in the middle of it about Chris Leben being more mature (even after the interviewer asks about Leben’s recent DUI) is as robotic and shameless as you can get. Remember, Leben’s response when asked about the recent DUI was, “Well, George W. Bush had one and he became President.” I would be remiss in pointing out that Frankie Edgar won the UFC fighter of the year honors and yet Chris Leben is being pushed as the Fighter of 2010.
First question is about Chuck Liddell’s retirement and his new role in the UFC.
DANA WHITE: “Yeah, you know, Chuck Liddell has been with me basically, I managed Chuck Liddell before we even bought the UFC. So, he and I have been together for 12 or 13 years and the way that I look at it is, he’s always been in business with us, since the day we started and even before and it’s very unique to have, and I don’t think there’s ever been a fighter-promoter relationship like this in the history of the world, you know, as long as he and I have been together through the ups, the downs, the success, all the things that usually, you know, strain on a relationship, he and I have stayed very close friends and the way I look at it, business partners. And, you know, everybody knows that I’ve been yapping about him retiring for probably the last couple of years and, you know, it’s tough to go from being a huge superstar like he is, walking in with, you know, 20,000 people screaming your name and all the stuff that goes with it, but I think I got him in a good place now where he… you know, he’s going to move onto the next chapter of his life and his career. And as far as his duties go, he’s the Executive Vice President of Business Development and the way that we work as a company, Lorenzo (Fertitta) and I don’t walk into a room and just barking orders to everybody, ‘this is what we’re going to do.’ We’ve hired a team of executives whom we respect, we respect their opinion, and we want their input, we want to know what they have to say. And now Chuck Liddell is part of the team.”
INTERVIEWER: “Was there was a general consensus to hire him or did you receive any negative feedback, you know, hiring a former fighter?”
DANA WHITE: “From who?”
INTERVIEWER: “Anyone at the UFC?”
DANA WHITE: “Well… heh… push everything I just said aside, me and Lorenzo make that decision, you know, who we’re going to hire and like I said we’ve done a great job of building a great team. So, no, no feedback.”
In the last part of that answer, Dana is absolutely chuckling the whole time when he’s asked about someone giving him negative feedback.
As for fighters getting cut and what Brandon Vera’s status with UFC is, here’s the standard response you would expect:
INTERVIEWER: “Another guy on the card, Brandon Vera. He was a shining star in the UFC, an up-and-comer, everybody was talking about him, he had a big buzz around him. Now he’s kind of seemed to dwindle a little bit. Do you think this fight is do-or-die for him?”
DANA WHITE: “It’s a big fight for him, no doubt. It’s a big fight for him and it’s a big fight for Thiago (Silva). Listen, nobody wants to be in this sport and lose. Everybody wants to win. But for me, it’s not about, you know, people ask me is this a do-or-die for this guy. All I ask of guys, listen, everybody’s going to lose here and there, you come out and you perform on Saturday night. Listen, I can’t stand the guys who go out and talk all this smack, I’m going to do this, I’m going to do that, and this is where I’m at, and then go out and don’t do anything. Those are the guys that are going to get cut. The guys that stick around are the guys who go out and perform and I just don’t see how this fight isn’t a great fight. Brandon’s head is back, he’s very talented, well-rounded, and Thiago Silva comes in to finish people.”
Since the UFC/WEC merger has taken place, a lot more guys are getting cut after losses. So, can fighters really take the chance of having an exciting fight but lose and get cut? Remember — if a fighter wins, he contractually cannot get cut, no matter how ugly the manner in which the win was obtained.
What stood out to me in this interview is the recognition that the Gray Maynard/Frankie Edgar fight has little juice with the casual fans. You can see that not even Dana’s heart is into hyperbolically (if there is such a word) marketing this fight. He recognizes that despite two big wins over BJ Penn that the fans are not into Frankie and that Maynard is a fighter that the hardcore fans are into but not so much the casual fan.
(I thought the most interesting contrast on the UFC 125 Countdown show was between Gray Maynard and his father. His father is very charismatic on television.)