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UFC boss Dana White: ‘Chris Leben is the fighter of 2010’

By Zach Arnold | December 30, 2010

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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.)

Topics: Media, MMA, UFC, Zach Arnold | 22 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

22 Responses to “UFC boss Dana White: ‘Chris Leben is the fighter of 2010’”

  1. Coyote says:

    ¡WTF! Leben. Hard time’s i think. Someone miss Lesnar a lot.

  2. Michaelthebox says:

    The hardcore fans are into Maynard?

  3. edub says:

    Frankie Edgar is the Rodney Dangerfield of MMA.

  4. Kid Nate says:

    How did they fire Todd Duffee after a win?

  5. Chuck says:

    Chris Leben as fighter of the year? Who’s the runner up? Evangelista Cyborg? Christ almighty…

  6. 45 Huddle says:

    I think fighters still have to go out there and perform and not play it safe. Because they know that even if they go 3-0 in the UFC…. If they play it too safe for multiple fights…. They can still get cut. Look at Gerald Harris. The guy basically barely fought for 2 straight fights trying to play it straight, and he was let go. And yes, I know he finished his last UFC win, but up until they he played it far too safe.

    It’s a tight rope walk the fighters have to be on. I think at the end of the day, if a fighter goes out there trying to do everything to win, and continues to try and improve position, stay active, and just show they are wanting to fight…. There is little issue.

    As for a lot of guys getting cut in the UFC. I think that’s great. They have a bottom 10% to 20% of their talent pool that really doesn’t belong on the big show. Those spots can easily be taken up by higher level Feather and Bantam fighters.

    What is really lacking in this sport is an organization that takes cut UFC fighters and tries to build them back up…. And then allows them to go back to the UFC when they are ready. Bellator would be great for that if they didn’t try to compete with the UFC and have such restrive contracts. Imagine if Bellator ran these nice tournaments and then the winners went on to the UFC….

    On a side note…. I think Overeem will beat Duffee. But if Duffee somehow wins, what an epic beatdown the internet fans will take this year. They have hyped this guy up to such high levels that when he loses, there are going to be a lot of “We told you so’s”….

    • lol, internet fans. Starkly opposed to the casual fans that read wrestling blogs for MMA info and discuss events primarily in terms of PPV buys. Oh, wait…

      Seriously though, any guy hyped up who loses is gonna make people who like them look stupid. All the people who pretended that Lesnar getting nearly bombed out in a couple minutes against Carwin quickly reversed course or pretended that they knew he had no chin the whole time after Cain leveled him in the first. I’m sure something similar would happen for Overeem if he loses in a few hours. Hey, who knows? Its not like Alistar hasn’t disappointed before.

    • david m says:

      Do you ever read your own posts? The idea that someone can play it far too safe in winning multiple UFC fights in a row is ridiculous. This is supposed to be a sport, not a popularity contest. I am still shocked by how much disdain you have for fighters. Yesterday you suggested that guys who needed surgery ‘didn’t really need surgery’, like you are some fucking doctor or something and you know what it is like to train every day with a torn ligament.

      • 45 Huddle says:

        It’s not ridiculous. Going out there and doing nothing and then getting a big slam or KO in the last round still means you did nothing.

        Gabriel Gonzaga vs. Kevin Jordan is a perfect example. Nobody would say it was a respectable fight. Both fighters came out of the fight looking horrible. There was a finish in that fight. Didn’t matter.

        Same with Mir vs. Cro Cop. There was a KO finish. Still was a horrible fight that made people not want to watch.

        And major pro athletes compete with big injuries all of the time. So to bash MMA fighters for constantly pulling out after breaking a nail is hardly stretching it. Nor is it disdain for the fighters. There job is to fight. When they don’t fight…. Whether by constantly pulling out for BS injuries or by just not engaging in the actual fight…. Fans have a right complain.

        • edub says:

          No major league baseball player competes with a 90% torn rotator cuff.

          Fighters compete injured all the time, just like athletes in other sports.

        • 45 Huddle says:

          Rotator Cuff tear is serious.

          Shane Carwin saying he is taking elective surgery is not.

          Jose Aldo saying he is healthy enough to fight but pulls out anyways is not.

          Mike Swick having another excuse…. This one not even sounding legit is not.

        • David M says:

          It is ridiculous to think that people whose job it is to get punched in the face, kicked, kneed, choked, and slammed every fucking day are pulling out of fights with fake injuries. Most of these guys are really banged up, and don’t have the kind of job security that comes from a guaranteed contract like in baseball or basketball. These guys fight through injuries that most people would not play through, not the other way around.

          Your hypothesis makes no sense; these guys need the money, so there is an incentive to fight hurt. If you are on a guaranteed contract, the incentive is not there as much. I have no idea why you would think that the toughest sport on Earth has guys who are pussies and who pull out for minor injuries. Get a clue. Talking shit about Carwin having back surgery is ridiculous. Can you imagine the strain on your back from training every day? You think that is not significant? I can’t tell if you are just trolling for the sake of trolling or if you believe what you are typing.

          This is also the same Carwin whose knob you were slobbering over for bashing Jonathan Snowden for daring to be critical, and now you are saying Carwin is a pussy for not fighting with bad back damage.

  7. Coyote says:

    Haters gonna hate. Overeem destroys Dufee, who is NeXT? Werdum?

    Kazuyuki Miyata is a new force in the Featherweight division.

    And Kawajiri is gonna fight Melendez in #Strikeforce this year.

    • 45 Huddle says:

      Let’s say each fighter is ranked on a scale of 1 to 10. Cain Velasquez is a 10. Eddie Sanchez is a 2.

      Alistair Overeem keeps on beating up 6’s and 7’s. We know he can beat that level of fighter. He even did so in Pride. And yet, he continues to fight them. Beating up the same level of fighter for years in a row without stepping up to that next level of competition…. The 8’s, 9’s, and 10’s… Does not make him something special.

      I don’t think that is hating. Just being honest with what is actually happening.

      • David M says:

        I would agree with the part about beating 6s and 7s, but there is something to be said also for the manner in which someone accomplishes such a feat. I knew Aldo, GSP, Jon Jones, Anderson Silva, Machida, etc were exceptional fighters even when they were not fighting the best guys in the world. Some people just have that “it” factor. I was not a believer in Overeem at 205; he was dominating both Shogun and Liddell and crumbled when they fought back, but at hw, sans the massive weight cut and with the kind of power that one gets from eating lots of “horse meat”, look out. I think I would take Cain, Fedor and J2S over him, but not Carwin or Lesnar or anyone else.

        • 45 Huddle says:

          Aldo, GSP, Jones, & Machida didn’t have a plethora of losses on their record before looking unbeatable.

          Overeem does.

          Big difference.

          Muscles can’t change a guys heart. The guy would still get beat by the better Light Heavyweights out there today.

    • 45 Huddle says:

      As for Miyata…. Who has he beaten again? All of his best opponents he has lost to.

      And Kawajiri vs. Melendez will likely happen. But it would be like watching the winner of Edgar/Maynard fight Jim Miller.

      Kawajiri lost to Aoki and Alvarez already. So now he gets a fight with the guy who already destroyed Aoki?

    • edub says:

      I’d like to see the same hate Gray Maynard gets placed upon Kawajiri. When he beats people he uses the exact same style. In all of his best wins he has dominated people physically on the ground, but all anyone wants to talk about is the overrated power in his hands.

      He’ll get beat by Melendez again if they fight, but hopefully he has to fight someone else before that.

  8. Manapua says:

    HPD found & confiscated a large bag of cocaine from Leben’s vehicle during that wreck. He was not under the influence but they made him eat the charge to let him off easy.


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