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Dana White channels his inner Old Man Harrison regarding today’s MMA fighters

By Zach Arnold | November 20, 2012

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This video is from last Friday but it’s worth a second look now given the developments from this past weekend’s UFC 154 show in Montreal.

The first part of the video is about Matt Mitrione vs. Roy Nelson, which happens to be a more interesting match for UFC’s big December slate of cards than Roy Nelson vs. Shane Carwin. Few fans cared about either guy on The Ultimate Fighter and even fewer fans wanted to see Nelson/Carwin. So, we now end up with Meathead vs. Big Country.

However, as you see in the interview, Dana basically says that Mitrione was booked because Cheick Kongo didn’t want to fight Roy Nelson. This set off a tangent from Dana about fighters turning down short-notice offers from the UFC office.

ARIEL HELWANI: “Is Matt Mitrione back in your good graces now that he took this fight?”

DANA WHITE: “Well, it’s not that Matt Mtirione wasn’t in my good graces. It’s like, we’re just at this time and place where I’ve been dealing with these guys for the last 10 years… I’ve been doing this for 13 years, there was a 10 year run where guys didn’t turn down fights. I mean the biggest fight that was ever turned down under my first 10 years of the UFC was Tito (Ortiz) not wanting to fight Chuck (Liddell).

“Now like every week, Kongo’s turned down two fights in a row. Just offered Kongo, we offered Kongo the fight with, uh, uh… Roy Nelson and he refused to do it. And we offered him a fight before that and he refused to do it, you know, it’s like, we’re getting into this era now with these guys and, yeah, yeah, it bothers me and, yeah, I don’t like it. And, yeah, I kind of, you know… it turns me off to guys when they don’t want to step up and take big fights.

“It’s like I’ve been doing these interviews all week and everybody, I’m tired, I’m sick and tired of the, uh, the… accusations that Chael Sonnen is getting into things because he talks. Chael Sonnen steps up and he takes big fights on short notice. He’s the kind of guy that I’ve been dealing with since we bought the UFC. Chael Sonnen is that guy, you know, and you got all these bitter babies out there crying like Dan Henderson. Dan Henderson is supposed to be friends with him. What are you crying about? You turned down the (Jon) Jones fight twice. You had to pull out because of your knee. You had the fight. Your knee, you had to pull out. He said, ‘All I need is a couple of weeks.’ I said, all right, let’s see how this knee feels. Then, I offered him the fight in Toronto… and he turned down the Toronto fight, too, because of his knee. So, why is he mad that, what, are we supposed to sit around and wait for Dan Henderson? We’ll wait until Dan Henderson’s knee heals and we’ll just let Jon Jones kick back at home and do nothing. I mean, it’s ridiculous. And, the guys that I called that were in line for that fight that turned down the fight, Chael Sonnen steps up and he takes big fights.”

This diatribe led us to discussion about Ronda Rousey and how it seems unlikely that she will end up fighting Cris Cyborg. UFC wants to promote women’s bouts only at 135 pounds and Cyborg has had plenty of problems making weight in the pass, so 135 pounds doesn’t seem to be in the cards… Whatever the case may be, UFC still wants to do the fight because they think it will attract big money. This is yet another sore spot for Dana.

Dana’s bringing in Ronda (along with 7 or 8 other 135-pounders) to give a one-division women’s MMA scene a try.

ARIEL HELWANI: “When will she make her UFC debut and against who?”

DANA WHITE: “That I don’t know. I don’t know either one of those things. But… it’s become abundantly clear to me that Cyborg does not want to fight her. Umm…. So, I don’t know. Really, if we… this whole women’s thing… I’ve always told you guys that, uh… the divisions aren’t really deep enough to create. I think that the 135 pound division that Ronda’s in and champion of… there’s four or five good fights for her over the next year, year-and-a-half.”

ARIEL HELWANI: “And then what?”

DANA WHITE: “I don’t know. I think that you’ll see a lot more women coming up in that 135 pound division… or they won’t.”

ARIEL HELWANI: “You feel it is deep enough to make it a division in the UFC?”

DANA WHITE: “It’s deep enough to get through a couple of years. And then we’ll see what happens, you know? I’m going to give this thing a shot. We’re going to try it. Um, you know, obviously there’s, you know, I haven’t been shy about saying, uh, I think Ronda Rousey’s going to be a huge star, I think she’s incredibly talented, she’s mean and nasty, she’s a real fighter, um… so, we’ll see how this things play out and see how strong women’s MMA really is.”

As Dave Meltzer put it, “Dana is so great at controlling headlines. Instead of Strikeforce folds, what is going to keep and lose jobs, it’s Rousey signs with UFC.”

However, the biggest challenge now for Dana in terms of getting fighters to agree upon a fight is Georges St. Pierre vs. Anderson Silva. He’s spent quite a bit of hype already on the proposition. UFC did the picture-in-picture dealio with Anderson during R5 of GSP/Condit, which rubbed some people the wrong way. St. Pierre chided the media for asking him questions about Anderson Silva in the week leading up to the Condit fight. Ed Soares and crew made sure everyone knew that Anderson would fight at 178 pounds. Firas Zahabi has fired back, stating that the fight should be at Welterweight (170 pounds). Dana wants the fight to happen in May (or in the Summer 2013 months) at Cowboys Stadium. Will he be able to deliver on making the fight happen or will this turn into another of the many headaches with no immediate resolution?

Topics: Media, MMA, UFC, Zach Arnold | 18 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

18 Responses to “Dana White channels his inner Old Man Harrison regarding today’s MMA fighters”

  1. 45 Huddle says:

    I can see both sides…

    For the fighters they want a full 3 month camp.

    For White….. he says they are fighters and should be in good enough shape to take a fight on 1 months notice. Not to mention all of the turning down of fights that seems to be happening more and more.

    • SNX says:

      Fights are getting turned down because fighters are finally being told that they don’t owe Dana White anything, and that his assessments of whether a fighter should be ready or not (you’ll notice that for him, “ready” doesn’t go any further than “when he decides he wants them”, training camps be damned) are becoming more and more pointless.

      As usual, when it comes down to it, Dana’s whining that he can’t just browbeat fighters into doing what he wants anymore. He actually has to negotiate and be prepared for rejection, and those are two things he’s really not a fan of doing.

      • 45 Huddle says:

        There is that. But the story is not black and white…

        Many fighters need 3 months because they let themselves get out of shape. And too many fighters are trying to protect careers that are going nowhere.

        This is very much a two prong problem here.

        • edub says:

          I agree more with the side of Dana is just whining now because he doesn’t have absolute power, but you also make a good point.

          There are a few fighters now that are turning down fights for no real reason. I mean, what does Check Kongo have to protect?

          It’s one thing for a champion, or top contender to turn down a short notice opponent (or change in opponent). But IMO, gatekeepers (or guys lower than that level) have little to lose.

        • nottheface says:

          What is he protecting? Perhaps a ban from an AC when he fails the piss test? How dumb would it be for a fighter to take a short fight and not have time to properly cycle?

        • The Gaijin says:

          Kongo’s 4-1 in his last five fights and on a bit of a roll…what has he got to lose? How about losing to rolly polly Roy Nelson, far from a guy Dana takes seriously, when he takes him on short notice, gets taken down and crucifixed to death then sent back down the depth chart to start over again.

        • edub says:

          As much as Dana doesn’t like Roy it’s clear he holds him in a much higher regard than Kongo (even at 4-1 lately).

          Also, how far would Kongo really be falling back down? If he loses to Roy on short notice he’s basically at the same spot he is now.

        • 45 Huddle says:

          Kongo is a known gate keeper that always comes up shory when he is trying to make it to a title shot.

          He has no business calling the shots.

          Know your role….

  2. Megatherium says:

    Dana is just being a deliberately obtuse dick here. He knows full well what happens when his guys agree to take a fight

  3. edub says:

    A lot of bullshit by Dana here. It’s become abundantly clear Cyborg doesn’t want to fight Ronda? Really, because I thought it was pretty clear she didn’t want to go to 135 to fight her, and Ronday didn’t want to go back to 45 to fight Santos? Dan turned the fight down twice? So he turned the fight down a month after he went down with an injury in the first place, and Dana lumps that in with guys “turning the fight down”. Then conveniently avoids the fact that Dan would be completely healed by whenever Chael and Jon are supposed to fight now.

    Also, I think the writing is on the wall that after a couple big fights with Ronda (or a loss by her), that the division goes bye bye.

    “I don’t know. I think that you’ll see a lot more women coming up in that 135 pound division… or they won’t.”

    I wonder if Miesha Tate will bitch about Dana not giving Women enough credit for making weight.

  4. The Judge says:


    It is one thing to postpone the fight by a couple of weeks or even 2 months and it’s another to have Jon Jones doing nothing for 9 (which is what he will apparently be doing anyway). I didn’t think Henderson’s beef was so much with him not getting his title shots, it was with Sonnen being given the shot instead–there were other, more deserving competitors.

  5. Dave says:

    You know, some guys have no problem stepping up on no notice for more money, but if they are in a shitty position or aren’t prepared, I don’t blame them.

    You can’t run a continuous training camp until you retire, it just doesn’t work that way.

    The other part of me laughs at this and realizes that this is all his fault, anyway. The current world of MMA is built upon the framework, attitudes and culture that Dana White helped to cement. There is clearly a culture of fear within the organization, where there is an understanding that you have to jump through hoops to be on Dana’s good side, and that one misstep can and will put you in the doghouse.

    Bonnar just stepped up to ‘save’ a PPV, something that Dana is crying about more fighters not doing, and sure, he pissed dirty, but if he turned down the fight he would have had Dana pissing and moaning about him in the press, anyway. I’m sure Bonnar knew he wouldn’t be able to cycle down in time, so he chose the option that temporarily made Dana happy and made him some money.

    Dana knows how many of his guys are on TRT or anything else, and knows that their levels probably aren’t in order until they need to be or that they aren’t cycling down yet.

    Why are they doing those things? Because they are afraid to lose, it is also why a lot of guys fight rather conservatively as well.

  6. RST says:

    “…a tangent from Dana about fighters turning down short-notice offers…”

    Because ufc is still trying to establish itself.

    And dana may never be able to afford a humvee with MMA fighters refusing short notice fights left and right.

    And the whole having every active fighter in MMA on his roster thing just keeps dana up all night trying to figure out a way to make ends meet!

    • RST says:

      dana pushes, demands and throws away these guys like he’s in the ring with them.

      But he’s not anymore and hasn’t been for awhile.

  7. The Gaijin says:

    “RIP” Ricky Hatton.

  8. Jay B. says:

    Just wanted to mention something I just saw. Rousey Main eventing a UFC event. UFC has forced the fans to create in their mind a “Big Four” when it comes to titles. People only truly care about the 4 top weight divisions, Heavyweight, LH, Middleweight and Lightweight/Welterweight are debatable and interchangeable. UFC Might just fail with Rousey being a headliner simple because they are trying to force casual UFC fans to care about her. Casual fans are pretty fickle.

    • 45 Huddle says:

      The UFC is getting dangerously close to becoming what boxing once was with too many titles.

      It is funny that I say that as they are getting rid of 4 titles in Strikeforce. I know boxing is worse….. 17 divisions and 3 champions per division.

      But I think Zuffa is already at the point that casual fans cannot keep track of all of the divisions. That is not a good thing.

      As a long time supporter of having 8 divisions in Zuffa….. I would say I was wrong…. And I would like to see it go down to 8 divisions….. Heavyweight to Featherweight.

      • Jay B. says:

        Featherweight should be gone too I think. 7 is a good number. This is just out of control. Contraction is a likely thing if UFC viewing numbers and buyrates drop.


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