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Dana White: This PED issue in UFC is not as big as it’s made out to be

By Zach Arnold | May 29, 2012

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There have been many horribly frustrating interviews when it comes to media sycophants giving UFC President Dana White a pass on the issue of Performance Enhancing Drugs, but this recent interview by Ron Kruck really takes the cake.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — on certain issues, Dana White still sounds very reasonable and can communicate effectively problems that need to be addressed in the sport (such as bad officiating). However, on the drug issue, Dana is completely out of his league. The only people more out of his league are the media writers who follow him around covering the issue. The majority of said writers (not the Ben Fowlkes’ of the world) are either clueless/uneducated about the topic or tend to have a pro-legalization bent, so the end result is that you have power brokers in the fight industry who get a total pass. This interview is a perfect demonstration of this principle at work.

For anyone with a solid education on the drug crisis in MMA, this is a horribly frustrating interview to watch. Dana’s talking out of both sides of his mouth here. On one side, he’s saying that the drug problem is not nearly as bad as it’s made out to be. Later on, he praises the various state athletic commissions for their level of drug testing and praises the way they are handling the Testosterone issue. He puts over just how ‘strict’ the UFC’s drug testing protocols are and says that UFC, when compared to other sports, has the most stringent drug testing protocols of all. He keeps pushing the line that “The Government” regulates them, which is beyond obnoxious.

And, yet, out of the other side of his mouth he’s talking about how UFC needs to take drug testing ‘to the next level’ and that they are going to take steps to make sure guys aren’t using drugs once they get into the UFC. As the worst-case scenario, Dana is horribly undereducated on the issue and is lying out his ass. As a best-case scenario, the man is suffering from an extreme case of cognitive dissonance about the problem his sport is facing. I’m not sure which scenario reflects worse on the company.

Dana kept harping about how ‘we’re not the NFL, we’re not Major League Baseball’ and how he’s not out to punish guys but rather ‘more designed to help guys.’

“I’m not out to hurt guys. The Government does that.”

If there is anything intriguing about this interview, it’s the way his tone shifts when talking about Nick Diaz getting in trouble for marijuana usage as opposed to his attitude about Chael Sonnen getting a hall pass for TRT and Jon Jones getting in trouble for DUI. He genuinely comes off as feeling let down by Diaz and yet is making excuses in the same interview for Jones getting in trouble.

Mike Chiappetta: Jon Jones pleads guilty to misdemeanor, escapes major legal trouble

If you’re looking for an interesting news-ish takeaway from the interview, it’s the part of the interview where Dana talks about being ready to set up satellite UFC offices around the globe to run territories. This has long been rumored & discussed to the point of no return, but you get a real sense here that it really is about to go down no matter if it turns out to be a major success or a colossal failure.

Topics: Media, MMA, UFC, Zach Arnold | 28 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

28 Responses to “Dana White: This PED issue in UFC is not as big as it’s made out to be”

  1. Weezy says:

    “He keeps pushing the line that “The Government” regulates them, which is beyond obnoxious.”

    Maybe I’m misunderstanding your point. What, exactly, is obnoxious about the claim that “the government” regulates them? In the United States he’s totally right. The States they run shows in handle the licensing and testing of athletes. I get that maybe this shouldn’t be the case. But he isn’t wrong in stating it as fact. I would be more suspect of the drug testing arrangement if Zuffa did it themselves inhouse. So that leaves a third, private party as the other alternative. Should they work with such a party? If it is one that is proven and firmly established, perhaps.

    • Zach Arnold says:

      I’ve long debated his usage of the phrase “The Government” for a while now because, in my opinion, it’s his cheap rhetorical euphemism for leading people to believe the following:

      “The Government” = the Feds.

      That’s simply not the case. If you say to someone, “The Government” is regulating a sport and not a state athletic commission, it comes across as if there’s stronger regulation of the sport. As if there’s an Ali Act or something.

      • Jonathan Snowden says:

        What does the Ali Act say about PED’s? What are its requirements? In what ways does it federalize the issue?

        • Chuck says:

          “What does the Ali Act say about PED’s? What are its requirements? In what ways does it federalize the issue?”

          Nothing, nothing, and not at all (in that order). The Ali Act says nothing about PEDs. Wasn’t the point. The point of the Ali Act was to protect fighters against fraudulent actions by a manager, promoter, sanctioning body, etc. It does address head injuries and advising (but not requiring) fighters to undergo regular brain scans.

          This is the entire thing (easy to read, not too heavy in the legalese).

      • Weezy says:

        I see. I guess I don’t have that same notion of the connotation of government. To many, though, it might conjure images of Washington DC exclusively.

      • Steve4192 says:

        I think that is just you Zach.

        To most people, ‘the government’ is a catch-all for any level of government.

        Local/State governments are much more visible/pervasive in peoples lives than the federal government. The federal government is not something that impacts most people’s day-to-day life. I can go weeks without seeing a representative of the federal government, but can’t step outside my door without hearing a police siren, or fire engine, or a garbage truck rolling down the street.

  2. Beau Dure says:

    I don’t know if MMA has maxed out in the United States — it’s clearly down from its peak of 2-3 years ago but could easily bounce back when stars are healthy — but the big-growth areas for the next decade seems to be overseas. Can’t say I’m surprised.

  3. 45 Huddle says:

    Dana White seems rather unglued these last 6 months.

    MMA is a niche sport. Will always be. The quicker White comes to terms with this, the better.

    • rbk says:

      “MMA is a niche sport. Will always be. The quicker White comes to terms with this, the better.”


    • Jonathan says:

      And there’s nothing wrong with being a niche sport.

      It’s worked for bowling for decades.

      • 45 Huddle says:

        I personally have no problem with it being a niche sport. In fact, it has blown up much bigger then I ever thought it would.

        The problem is that when the President of the company truly believes that the sport can become bigger then baseball, basketball, or football…. Then any sort of realistic goals look like failures in his eyes. And then he becomes unglued like White has.

  4. Jim says:

    I’ve never been a Dana fan but he might think about taking some time off. He really seems to be losing his grip on reality lately. His rant about TV networks ‘leaking’ ratings is a case in point. The UFC has some serious problems right now–declining PPV buy rates, a perceptible drop in interest in the product among American fans, the PED issue, etc. and I’m not sure he’s up to the task right now. He can still pull his ‘these aren’t the droids you’re looking for’ act with most of the MMA media and they’ll play along but that won’t solve any of the problems.

    • 45 Huddle says:

      He is “not up to the task” because he micromanages everything. And now that they are going to be running 30+ shows…. he is going to have the ultimate burnout.

      Wasn’t his father an alcoholic? Not shocking, because White shows all the signs of an addictive personality. The only difference is that instead of the drink, he is addicted to his job. And not in a healthy way.

      The writing is on the wall. Everybody see’s it. They need a weekly TV Event. The problem is that they are unwilling to do so, and White’s head would explode trying to make every show.

      He should really be part of the PPV events and the behind the scenes stuff. There is no reason he needs to be at a Fuel TV Level Show.

      • Chuck says:

        Definitely gives more credence to the Vince McMahon comparisons. Both men are absolute control freaks with a penchant for trash talking others.

  5. EJ says:

    While i’ve been hard on Dana this past year, let’s not go overboard here by trying to make more of things than they are. On PED’s he’s right on the money, the only people obssessed with this are some fans who are in denial and you Zach.

    Dana is no where near reaching levels being anything like Vince, while he has his faults he’s still the best guy for the job that would break lesser people. Fact is the UFC getting rid of bandwagon fans might be the best thing for them, i’ve noticed alot of arrogance and feeling that some fans feel entitled to thing when they are not.

    Right now the UFC needs to clear the decks, they will have to take a few steps back to take more forward just like any business that wants to survive. And that’s not a problem considering how fast they’ve grown and how much they’ve done this was bound to happen. But I don’t doubt Dana to get things back on track pretty soon starting with Sonnen vs. Silva which should be a monster if pushed right.

    • Chuck says:

      “While i’ve been hard on Dana this past year, let’s not go overboard here by trying to make more of things than they are. On PED’s he’s right on the money, the only people obssessed with this are some fans who are in denial and you Zach.”

      If you truly believe that, then I got beach front property in Serbia I want to sell you. If it was only Zach and “fans who are in denial” then why are many reporters asking Dana questions about it? Yeah, many of them (gotta love them weasel words!) do kind of kiss Dana’s ass, but they are still asking/talking about it. The matter of the fact is this…..we don’t really know the full extent of how serious the issue it is. Most, I bet, fighters who are dirty don’t get caught (cycling off, low enough amounts that would get flushed out quickly, masking agents, etc).

      “Dana is no where near reaching levels being anything like Vince”

      No he’s not. He really can’t because Dana only owns 9% (odd number, I know) of the company, whereas Vince owns more than 51% of his company (publicly traded company). If Dana owned more than half of Zuffa then he would probably be more of a control freak. As it is, Dana has a lot of power for owning only 9%. He’s president, right?

      • EJ says:

        Reporters asking Dana about PED’s doesn’t prove anything, considering that most of the time they do that is because of a failed test like Overeems. Zach has been on a crusade about PED for months now and you can tell how many people actually give a damn about it on one hand. This reminds me of the PED crusaders in baseball, mainly it’s just the baseball writers who are up in arms about it when the rest of the public couldn’t care less.

        Dana owning 9% of Zuffa has no bearing on how much power he has, if he really wanted to do something he could. Because of his relationship with Lorenzo who is in manyways always on the same page as him. Simply put like with the PED stuff, there is a small clamor of people who have hated him for years because of him killing Pride. They can’t get over it and want to get at him at every turn, the guy may have his faults but he’s still by far the best guy for what’s a near impossible job.

        • Zach Arnold says:

          If you can’t figure out why testosterone usage in MMA is a far bigger deal than testosterone usage in non-combat sports, then I can’t help you.

          If you can’t understand the logic regarding testosterone usage and head trauma in combat sports, I don’t know what to say. You have fighters claiming low testosterone levels due to concussions — and now want hall passes for T. Additionally, allowing older fighters to use testosterone means they end up suffering more head trauma.

          Think before you speak.

        • Weezy02 says:

          Zach, wouldn’t testosterone usage in MMA only be an issue in instances where it gave fighters an elevated amount of testosterone? I concede that there are guys that try to game the system and you’re right to cast doubt on them. But if someone legitimately has low levels and needs prescribed medication to get them to competition levels is that really giving them an advantage over their opponent? If so, why? Just playing devil’s avocate. To me it seems like the issue shouldn’t be whether guys use testosterone. It should be if they use it and don’t need it, thus giving them elevated levels.

  6. Rob Maysey says:

    I think Zach was intentionally understated.

    “The Government regulates” and we “run to regulation” implies that an actual, independent, well intentioned and empowered governmental body regulates.

    Of course, none of these elements exist in actuality.

    When a piece of legislation was introduced that would actually carry out, in some small way, the guiding principle of these athletic commissions–Zuffa no longer “ran towards regulation,” but instead, threatened to take their ball to those that gave them precisely what they wanted.

    • Weezy02 says:

      ““The Government regulates” and we “run to regulation” implies that an actual, independent, well intentioned and empowered governmental body regulates.

      Of course, none of these elements exist in actuality.”

      Many government bodies do regulate the sport in the United States. When you say well-intentioned, that’s in the eye of the beholder. However, I will say that expecting any government run agency in our nation to be well run is a recipe for a disappointed life.

  7. The Judge says:

    I didn’t see anything wrong with the interview, when I watched it. Maybe it’s because I like Ron Kruck and Inside MMA.
    I read your commentary and still don’t understand what is so wrong with the interview. You can’t expect a sports company president to say: “Yes, my company’s athletes have a huge problem with PEDs.” He has to talk about it a certain way.
    What’s more, considering the number of guys getting caught…doesn’t that mean that the testing is in fact strong? What more do you expect UFC to do? No amount of testing can stop Alistair Overeem, King Mo or Nick Diaz from being dumbasses.

    • Chuck says:

      It’s only getting strong now because of VADA and other companies doing out-of-competition testing. The state athletic commissions are border-line pathetic at catching cheaters.

  8. The Judge says:

    Explain how one statement contradicts the other. If testing becomes more widespread, then don’t more cheaters get caught?

  9. […] UFC has a giant problem — and it’s one of their own making. As we noted from comments Dana White made last weekend, the UFC claims the PED issue is blown out of proportion and yet says that they want to take drug […]

  10. Chris says:

    This PED issue has MMA well on it’s way to becoming a joke of a sport.

  11. […] you have the promoters who say they’re against PED usage in the sport but then proclaim that the state athletic commissions are doing a good job of monitoring & […]

  12. […] more time before actually facing reality head-on and doing something about the problem. Remember, it was nine months ago when Dana said in an interview that the issue of drug usage in UFC is not as big as it’s being made out to […]

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