Q&A with Dana White
Here's the full version of my recent interview with UFC president Dana White.
MMA Stomping Grounds: I didn’t hear anything about the big announcement on Thursday. When is that going down?
Dana White: I’m doing it Tuesday. Let me tell you how out of [expletive deleted] control that thing is. I was talking to ESPN and [the reporter] was talking about competition and I said, 'Let me tell you what. People have been trying to compete with the UFC for years, even before we bought it. The last big one everyone thought was a big threat ... was the IFL. They went public, raised 800-[expletive deleted] million dollars, then they were talking about doing fighter benefits and stuff. They got the first network deal, those other guys weren’t the first on. They got time on 60 Minutes with us when 60 Minutes did their piece on us, and now the IFL is gone. They are [expletive deleted] down, their stock is worth half a cent (Editor's note: IFLI closed at $0.02 Friday).
That’s what we were talking about that day [with ESPN] and I said I’m going to make an announcement to my employees that shows everyone exactly where this business is going in the next couple years. I said I wanted to make the announcement to my employees, so it’s not even like I was making a big announcement to the media. If I was doing that I would’ve had a big press conference and then gone off to London. I wanted to wait until I was back to do it.
It’s a big [expletive deleted] announcement, it’s a big [expletive deleted] deal, but I got a lot of other stuff we’re working on right now. It was never anything I said I was going to announce to the media.
MMA Stomping Grounds: Are you going to announce it to the media after you tell your employees?
White: Yeah, I guess I have to now.
MMA Stomping Grounds: Why did the day change?
White: I wanted to do it after I got back from England and I got back late Wednesday. Also, all of our people are going to be in town next week for The Ultimate Fighter finale. All of our production guys, Joe Rogan, I mean everyone who works for the UFC is coming to it.
MMA Stomping Grounds: As someone who essentially built the sport of mixed martial arts to the popularity level it’s at today, how tough was it to see another promotion get the first big event on network TV?
White: See it’s not about the publicity they got. The problem is that it wasn’t the best foot forward for the sport. That fight turned a lot of networks off, turned off a lot of sponsors. You had a guy headlining on CBS who used to fight in [expletive deleted] backyards. It was disgusting.
That’s the problem and we’ve never, even when we were in the hole, we’ve never gone the freakshow angle. We could’ve done it and made some money, but we won’t do it. All you’ve ever seen in the UFC was the greatest athletes in the world. Never, ever did we do a freakshow and we won’t.
Kimbo Slice couldn’t win The Ultimate Fighter. He wouldn’t [expletive deleted] win the show and he’s headlining on CBS.
MMA Stomping Grounds: What did you think of the stoppage in that fight?
White: I didn’t see it. I heard it was a bad stoppage. I heard it shouldn’t have been stopped and that if it went to the judges that the other kid was going to win.
MMA Stomping Grounds: If the EliteXC/CBS show is turning off some potential fans and potential sponsors, how important is it for the UFC to get a network TV deal to show the fans more talented fighters?
White: No, it’s actually not a big priority. It’s going to take time and now it’s going to take more time because of the ProElite thing. Now, all these people come out and try to jump into the game and guess who has to clean up the [expletive deleted] mess. Me, I have to clean up the mess and I’m not knocking any doors down to get a network deal. When we get the right network deal we’ll be on. ProElite doesn’t have the right deal. They are going to [expletive deleted] lose money. Their show already sucks and now they are going to lose money on top of it.
MMA Stomping Grounds: How much longer do you think they can stick around?
White: Not long. I think people tuned in to see what it was all about. After what I’m hearing from everyone, I don’t think too many people will tune in for next one. They lost a lot of money and if people don’t tune in, all of that equals [expletive deleted] disaster and [the circuit not lasting] too much longer. You’re going to find, believe me, we make this [expletive deleted] look easy, but it’s a rough business.
MMA Stomping Grounds: The news reports indicate that New York is close to regulating MMA. How important is that to you?
White: It’s a big deal. Who do you think has been trying to work on New York, and all those other states? Think Mark Cuban and CBS have helped us try to get these states opened up? No, they don’t give a [expletive deleted]. They don’t care about MMA and building the sport. They know we’ll do it and they will just come hang out.
MMA Stomping Grounds: What was the deal with the original vote on MMA in New York on Thursday and the revote next week?
White: I don’t want to talk about it. I’m very confident New York will be done by the end of this year.
MMA Stomping Grounds: Will other states fall in line after that or do you have to work on those others as well?
White: That’s it. We get New York and that’s it. We’re there. This year we had Tennessee and Massachusetts and New York left. Tennessee is done and Massachusetts is close and New York is almost done. Once we get those done we’re moving into Canada. Montreal and one other place are the only spots you can have fights and we’re opening those provinces up.
MMA Stomping Grounds: Once New York is done, how soon will you move to have a fight there?
White: Soon. We’ll be there, at Madison Square Garden.
MMA Stomping Grounds: With the recent sponsorship deals and the Jakks action figure deal, what do you think has been the biggest thing to happen to the UFC in the past year?
White: All sorts of stuff. The sponsorship deals with Bud Light and Harley Davidson, two blue-chip, mainstream sponsors. Some of the ratings we pulled, the Jakks action figure deal and the success we’ve had internationally this year, with the fights in London. We just did a big TV deal in the Philippines. My announcement on Tuesday is a big deal. [Expletive deleted] like that. And I’ve got more coming.
Listen, the media, you guys love to play the whole [expletive deleted] angle with ProElite, CBS, M1, the IFL, every guy that comes out. Donald Trump now, Mark Cuban, [expletive deleted], I can’t even remember everyone. You love to talk about who is going to take the big dog down. No one is [expletive deleted] taking us down. No one is [expletive deleted] in our league. People like to make comparisons about the [Triple-]AAA and [Double-]AA in baseball, but in AAA and AA those guys can play the game. This is completely [expletive deleted] different. These guys aren’t in our league. We’re driving the bus and we have the road map and we are the ones that are forging the way in this industry. These other guys are just throwing [expletive deleted] at the wall to see if it sticks.
MMA Stomping Grounds: What part of your job is the most difficult?
White: Always, at the end of the day, we're in the contract business. Contracts are up every year or two years and that’s always a [expletive deleted] and never fun to deal with.
MMA Stomping Grounds: With other organizations trying to pry fighters, does it hurt morale among UFC fighters when other fights leave for a big payday?
White: The way I look at this thing right now, it’s like war and unfortunately in every war there are casualties, and some of these guys that leave and go to other organizations ... it’s unfortunate.
MMA Stomping Grounds: If a fighter leaves for another organization, does that hurt his chances of coming back to the UFC down the road if that organization folds?
White: Unfortunately, some of these guys don’t look long term. Life goes on in the UFC. Guys will keep moving forward and things will keep moving. Maybe there will be some opportunity to come back someday or you get left in the dust.
MMA Stomping Grounds: What part of your job do you enjoy the most?
White: I love this sport. I love the fights and I love most of the guys in it. I love to win.
MMA Stomping Grounds: What fight are you most excited about?
White: Oh, [expletive deleted]. There are so many fights we have coming this year. I’m excited for a lot. I wanna see [Jon] Fitch-[Georges] St. Pierre, [Roger] Huerta-[Kenny] Florian, Forrest [Griffin] and [Quinton Jackson]. That’s the great thing about this thing. You realize we put on all the best fights people want to see and I want to [expletive deleted] see. People ask me what’s my dream fight. Are you [expletive deleted] kidding me? We make dream fights all the time.
MMA Stomping Grounds: What do you think is the biggest misconception the casual sports fan has about MMA?
White: I don’t know. I don’t think there are that many misconceptions. Maybe some people who watched the CBS show left with some misconceptions. I think we’re pretty much over that stigma. Unless we get the CBS thing [expletive deleted] this thing up, we don’t really battle that much anymore. Forbes magazine just came out with a list of like the hundred most dangerous sports and we’re not even on it.
MMA Stomping Grounds: You said earlier that getting a network TV deal wasn’t a huge priority. If that’s not a big priority, what is the biggest priority for the UFC?
White: To say it’s not a huge priority, I’m talking to different networks every day. We’re working on getting [MMA sanctioning in] states done. I’m working on getting stuff done in Canada, working down in Mexico, working on stuff in the UK, Germany, Australia, Brazil, the Philippines, Dubai.
MMA Stomping Grounds: What has to happen for you to sit back and say the UFC is mainstream?
White: When this thing is a worldwide sport that everyone is playing by the same rules all over the world.
I don’t know ... I don’t know. I have so many plans for this thing, even building it here in the US. We haven’t even scratched the surface here in the US. We’re so far from mainstream. Mainstream to me is walking down the street and asking about American Idol and everyone knows that. No one would know what the [expletive deleted] MMA is.
Photo courtesy of Zuffa, LLC.