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By Zach Arnold | April 25, 2014
Members of MMAWC, LLC, one of the various LLCs associated with the WSOF
The World Series of Fighting: unofficial bastard child of the UFC? Stalking horse promotion to sign fighters who might have otherwise signed with Bellator? Why have so many writers stayed quiet on this topic or have been quick to chastise the few of us pointing out the obvious?
If you didn’t hear the latest news, the UFC has signed Andrei Arlovski after WSOF released him. And Anthony “Rumble” Johnson is fighting Phil Davis in the semi-main event of Saturday’s PPV from Baltimore. The WSOF has, in turn, signed Jake Shields, Yushin Okami, Jon Fitch, Josh Burkman, Tyson Griffin, Jacob Volkmann, and others who were released by the UFC.
WSOF is a promotion founded by Sig Rogich, Nevada’s top political fixer. A top ally to Senators Harry Reid & John McCain. A top family friend to Marc Ratner (lifelong friend) and Lorenzo Fertitta. Ratner was Executive Director of the Nevada State Athletic Commission when Lorenzo was a commission member before buying the UFC. Rogich is the former Chairman of the NSAC. Rogich was the one who was front-and-center at a presser in Washington D.C. to tout the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo brain study for fighters. While attending that presser, John McCain and others were parroting that there isn’t need for federal oversight & regulation of MMA. No Ali Act required, huh?
@FightOpinion Surprised you didn’t mention Ali Abdelaziz: TUF Coach.
— David Bixenspan (@davidbix) April 25, 2014
And yet if you point out the obvious personal & past/current business/political connections between Rogich, Ratner, and Lorenzo you are labeled a conspiracy theorist by those who bother to speak up. Meanwhile, the majority of writers who could be discussing the obvious won’t. There’s no upside to doing so. Not only would it piss off allies in Zuffa and WSOF to start blathering about Rogich, it would also require an admission that I’m right. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned — from the testosterone issue to the PRIDE yakuza scandal to athletic commission scandals — it’s that many media writers would rather pass a kidney stone than admit that I’m on the right side of a touchy subject in the fight business.
The only thing more amusing than watching the writers purposely avoid touching this subject is watching fighters sign with pseudo semi-major UFC-friendly promotion WSOF and immediately start talking trash about their former employer (UFC) afterwards. Newsflash to fighters: people are laughing at you when you say that WSOF is treating you so much better than you were treated while fighting for the UFC. The only fighter who figured this whole thing out was Ben Askren.
What I want to know is what exactly the harm would be by admitting the full scope of the relationship between WSOF & UFC. Unless there’s some top-secret dealings that, if disclosed, would explode the business… then there’s no harm in actually admitting the truth and playing it straight.
There are some issues where playing it straight and professional is the only move to make.
In the case of Dana White, the more he talks the bigger the liability he becomes for the UFC as a front man. This is an argument we made many years ago on Fight Opinion Radio and now it seems that people are having to face the reality that Dana’s antics aren’t as cool as they used to be.
Dana White is the embarrassing uncle you thought was cool as a kid, but as you grew up you realise he never did.
— Adam Clatworthy (@Adam_Clatworthy) April 24, 2014
Ronda Rousey recently was interviewed by Kevin Iole of Yahoo Sports and made some comments about Cris Cyborg and the impact of using steroids. Perhaps not her finest moment but also not the end of the world. So, when Dana White was put on the spot by the press as to whether or not Ronda’s comments should be condemned, Dana dug himself an unnecessary hole:
More Dana White: "I said when I saw her at the MMA Awards, she looked like Wanderlei Silva in a dress and heels. And she did. Did she not?"
— Marc Raimondi (@marc_raimondi) April 24, 2014
i watched Dana White do an impression of Cyborg walking around in heels for the media today. #mylife
— E. Casey Leydon (@ekc) April 24, 2014
Part of Dana’s ongoing animosity with Cyborg is the fact that she was/is aligned with Tito Ortiz and even in 2014, Dana can’t shut up about Tito. Fine. But the larger part about Dana’s ongoing comments about Cyborg is that he loves Ronda to death and has basically decided to pick Cyborg as a target, freeze the target, and then polarize the target. Cyborg is a name fighter who beat up Gina Carano, a fighter who Dana likes and wants to sign to fight Ronda.
But Dana can go around and bully Cyborg because he can and no one is going to stop him. Certainly not any of the writers who are staring him in the face and instead nervously chuckle in order to avoid confrontation. He’s no different than Vince McMahon. The difference is that Dana is much more overexposed than Vince and Dana is more vulnerable for attack because he’s around sportswriters often.
And when Dana does get called out by a sportswriter, he gets really hostile in a hurry:
On espn2 at 4 pm eastern, @danawhite lights me up, calling a question stupid. It's fun and funny. And he's wrong.
— Dan Le Batard Show (@LeBatardShow) April 24, 2014
Dan Le Batard is great at what he does. He’s also knowledgeable about the MMA scene. Which is why the following passage from Thursday’s ESPN2 show between Dan & Dana is illuminating. The context is ESPN & UFC pushing the storyline of Ronda Rousey vs. Floyd Mayweather in an MMA fight. It’s an easy rhetorical device for Dana to put over Ronda.
“There’s never been a Ronda Rousey in combat sports ever. When you talk about somebody being one of a kind, she’s literally one of a kind.”
This same “Ronda vs. Mayweather” debate has been pushed on other ESPN media platforms this week when Dana, Joe Rogan, and others have been on television. A scripted talking point.
Unfortunately for Dana, Dan has a history of asking some real questions.
DAN LE BATARD: “Would you agree with the assessment that, outside of her right now, your sport is sort of facing a star crisis a little bit because you’ve lost some of your bigger names?”
DANA WHITE: “No. We’re putting on more fights than we’ve ever put on in more countries than we’ve ever put on them on in. You know, we have a live event on broadcast TV the other night and we’re #1 in all (key male demographics). We continue to charge on. Injuries are always a problem that we face. Cain Velasquez was out injured. GSP is injured right now. Anthony Pettis is injured right now. But it’s a contact sport. We’re always going to have those problems.”
DAN LE BATARD: “Dana, that’s not what I asked you. I know you’re putting on a ton of fights and that…”
DANA WHITE: “I know what you asked me and I just told you that you’re wrong. You’re absolutely wrong. That’s not the case. We’re actually putting on more fights than we’ve ever ever put on and, you know, the sport’s continuing to grow every day.”
DAN LE BATARD: “But I’m talking about stars, your big stars right now, correct, are Bones Jones and Ronda Rousey and Bones Jones…”
DANA WHITE: “Bones Jones, Ronda Rousey, Cain Velasquez, uh… Anthony Pettis. And those guys are hurt.”
DAN LE BATARD: “And they’re not Silva and they’re not St. Pierre. Not yet, anyways.”
DANA WHITE: “Well, let me tell you this, OK? Johny Hendricks just fought Robbie Lawler and the thing sold out, massive gate down there (in Dallas) and did very well on PPV and Johny Hendricks is the new champion. Quit reading the Internet, OK? If you’re going to ask me questions, at least ask me questions that are true.”
DAN LE BATARD: “No! No, no! I know Hendricks and I like Hendricks’ fighting style. He’s not a star, Dana, he’s not a star yet! He’s not. ”
DANA WHITE: “He just sold out the arena down there. Just pulled a massive gate.”
DAN LE BATARD: “He doesn’t compare to Silva and St. Pierre. He does not. Not yet, you know that, even though he beat St. Pierre.”
DANA WHITE: “I agree, but he did well on PPV. What do you consider a star? St. Pierre’s been a champion for years! Quit asking me stupid questions. Ask me a question that makes sense.”
DAN LE BATARD: “St. Pierre and Silva are giant stars in your sport. You’re giving us the promoter answer and I understand.”
DANA WHITE: “So was Chuck Liddell and so was Matt Hughes. You know. And new guys come up. It’s part of the sport. Same thing as baseball or basketball or anything else.”
And then came the discussion about Chael Sonnen…
DAN LE BATARD: “What was your reaction when Wanderlei Silva said that Chael Sonnen is a racist and doesn’t deserve our respect? I imagine you don’t even want that conversation anywhere near your sport.”
DANA WHITE: “Well, I mean, it’s, it’s uh… one thing people have to understand is that this is the fight game and people are going to say, you know, things about each other, people are going to say mean things about each other. It’s part of the sport.”
BOMANI JONES: “But the stuff he’s saying is racist. Are you saying that it’s not?”
DANA WHITE: “Uh… I mean, I don’t know if he’s ever said anything racist. But that’s the way fighting sports have been forever. I mean, I don’t know if you remember Greg Haugen fought Julio Cesar Chavez who was a national hero down there (in Mexico) and he said, yeah, 55 of his wins are over Tijuana cab drivers and said tons of crazy things about the Mexican people and then marched into Mexico City and fought Julio Cesar Chavez. It’s the fight game.”
BOMANI JONES: “Well, we’ve always known that race and ethnicity always are a big deal when fights come around but is there at any point where say Sonnen says something where you look at it and say, OK, we can’t do that. Is there a line for you as the promoter or do you let it go?”
DANA WHITE: “Definitely. No. We absolutely jump in. When somebody says something that is obviously very wrong, we definitely step in. Not to mention the fact that Chael works for a major broadcast network, too, and they would, too.”
Dana then proceeded to say that he never screams at his employees. The last person he screamed at was “this Hollywood attorney that was representing Ronda Rousey.”
“Just a typical Hollywood lawyer, goofball stuff that these guys do and say. I mean the stuff these guys come up with. They live in that land where they’re just all out there BS’ng each other and I literally don’t put up with any of that stuff. It drives me crazy.”