Home Features Dana White’s Tall Tales Leave Him Sorely Lacking In Credibility Of Late

Dana White’s Tall Tales Leave Him Sorely Lacking In Credibility Of Late

Dana White isn’t a man known for sticking to his word, but in recent times, even he has found himself losing his integrity to a certain extent.

“Dana White, without him none of this would be possible!”

While stoking the flames of the UFC’s pay-per-view hype trains at the ceremonial weigh-ins, Joe Rogan will point to this long-time friend, and UFC president, and make this bold announcement. Rogan’s comment holds a lot of weight – or at least held a lot of weight, in the past. Dana White was integral in overseeing the transformation of MMA, and the UFC, from a taboo bare-knuckle gore-fest to the much heralded ‘fastest growing sport in the world’.

But recently, he seems to have taken his finger off the public pulse. Recognising the importance of monetary success, in the wake of WME-IMG’s gargantuan $4 billion outlay on the UFC only 2 years ago, White seems perfectly happy to bankrupt himself morally in the pursuit of PPV success. His words, while always leaning towards ambiguous, have spiralled closer to outright fallacy over the past few years. His latest action is another prime example in a growing repertoire of his ability to row back on statements, regardless of how steadfast.

Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series has proved to be a mild success, thus far. It has yielded a bonafide star in the making, in Sean O’ Malley, already. However, one of the latest fighters to be offered a UFC contract comes with far more baggage than a penchant for the sweet Mary Jane.

Greg Hardy is a former NFL defensive lineman. On May 13, 2014, Hardy was arrested for assault and communicating threats, after he was alleged to have assaulted an ex-girlfriend by grabbing her, throwing her into furniture, strangling her, and threatening to kill her. He received a 10 game ban from the NFL, an organisation with a penchant for entertaining nefarious characters, and eventually bounced out of the league in 2016.

He made the controversial transition to MMA soon after and began making noise on the regional scene. Ever one to court attention, Dana White was soon sniffing around and invited Hardy onto the Contender series. ]
The former lineman utilised his athleticism to full effect and dismantled Austen Lane. Following the 34 second demolition job, White had already ejected from his cage-side seat with excitement and a contract was offered to Hardy, with no mention of his past indiscretions. As if this wasn’t bad enough, White voiced his opinion on domestic abusers back in 2014 in an interview with FOX.
There’s one thing that you never bounce back from, and that’s putting your hands on a woman. It’s been that way in UFC since we started here. You don’t bounce back from putting your hands on a woman.”
White should have included a caveat after that last line. You don’t bounce back from putting your hands on a woman unless I feel there’s a substantial chance of exploiting your notoriety for monetary gain.
Of course this is far from the first show of Dana White abandoning a position of principle when it seems there’s a fistful of cash to be made.
Last week, betting lines emerged for a potential ‘superfight’ between Brock Lesnar and Jon Jones. Having once again feigned disgust at the latest Jon Jones fiasco, following his UFC 214 failed drugs test, Dana White stated that he was in talks with representatives on both sides. This despite the fact that both fighters are currently ineligible, due to drugs bans.
Lesnar’s ban stemmed from his UFC 200 fight with Mark Hunt. So, White is actually pursuing a fight between two fighters banned for drug issues. No folks, this isn’t a news flash from RIZIN, or a throwback PRIDE show. This is all still under the UFC’s banner.

This desperate effort to make a veritable “Juicer-weight” division a reality screams of some sort of primal lusting for PPV buys, on the UFC’s behalf. How must it feel for the likes of Mark Hunt, Daniel Cormier and the entire heavyweight division to see Dana White so publicly courting two notorious rule benders, once more? These are two fighters who White made such a fuss of washing his hands of, remember. Following the UFC 200 debacle, a card Jones was meant to headline, The UFC president vented his frustrations.

“I don’t (trust him), no. I don’t. In my opinion, I would never take the risk of headlining a show with Jon Jones again. I’d put him on the card, but I wouldn’t headline with him until he consistently gets back on track. Millions of dollars are spent on this. For a card to fall apart, and how many cards have fallen apart because Jon Jones gets in trouble for something? So no, I’m not at that place with him.”
Fast forward a mere 8 months and Jon Jones vs Daniel Cormier 2 was slated to headline the UFC 214 pay-per-view. When a company has invested $4 billion in your product they expect results.

In the MMA world, Jon Jones will garner interest and more importantly buys. White’s only failing in this case was being as unanimous as he was, in his dismissal of Jones as a box office star, following UFC 200. With his experience in the business and in his role as a promoter, he should have realised draws like Jones don’t come around every turn. And perhaps even more importantly, rivalries like Jones and DC are very, very difficult to cultivate, unless natural. White’s handling of Jones of late reeks of ‘needs must’ more so than the actions of a promotional mastermind, in total control of his business.

While this is damning in its own right, such incidents are far from the first blots on Dana’s hypocrisy copybook. For further examples of rowing back on definitive statements, look no further than White’s fractious, albeit profitable, relationship with Conor McGregor. From allowing the Irishman free reign to run roughshod over 2 weight classes, to standing idly by while his prized cash cow was clearly becoming drunk on fame, White has never been one to stick to a definitive stance where McGregor is concerned.

Back in 2014, Jason High was pitted against Rafael Dos Anjos in a lightweight showdown at UFC Fight Night 42. The referee on the occasion, Kevin Mulhall, stopped the fight in the second round, declaring RDA the winner by TKO. High was incensed with what he felt was an early stoppage and shoved Mulhall. Cue an instant bashing from White and a P45 to go along with it. Fast forward 3 years, and look at Conor McGregor’s actions in a Bellator cage.

The UFC seemed to take the “hear no evil, see no evil” approach to the incident. While Dana White was reportedly ‘furious’ with McGregor’s actions, no statement was forthcoming. There was certainly no P45 drafted for ‘The Notorious’, similar to Jason High.

Was this because it was in a rival promotion? Was White loath to give Bellator any sniff of publicity? Or was it because deep down he knew he needed the Irish PPV juggernaut back sooner, rather than later? Word trickled out from various media sources that McGregor was pulled from December’s UFC 219 as a result of his actions. Given that the incident took place in November, with very little talk of McGregor preparing for a fight beforehand, this ‘punishment’ was merely fluff to placate the outraged masses.

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 06: Ultimate fighting star Conor McGregor stands with his lawyer Jim Walden during an arraignment in Brooklyn Criminal court on April 6, 2018 in New York City. McGregor is facing criminal charges in the wake of a backstage melee he allegedly instigated that has forced the removal of three fighters from UFC's biggest card of the year. Video footage appears to show the promotion's most bankable star throwing a hand truck at a bus full of fighters after a Thursday news conference for UFC 223 at Brooklyn's Barclays Center. (Photo by Mary Altaffer-Pool/Getty Images)
Jason High is no Conor McGregor. Let’s get the obvious out of the way. His ‘legacy’ will forever revolve around the ref pushing incident. But is it right for him to bear the brunt of Dana White’s fickle moods, while watching such behaviour being pandered to, for others? The simple answer is no.

But the righteous path is rarely adhered to in a business-infused world. Conor McGregor holds 3 of the top 5 selling PPVs of all time in the UFC. Jason High was a Fight Night/prelim level fighter who wasn’t going to cost Dana White millions of dollars. Subsequently, High wasn’t going to cost him a thought to cut either. But the ambiguity of White’s actions can only lead to discontent among other fighters.

That covers one example of White’s justifiable (?) preferential treatment of Conor McGregor. To be fair, Portugal were hardly going to sideline Cristiano Ronaldo for a bit of a tax ‘misunderstanding’ with the Spanish Government, ahead of the World Cup were they?
Sometimes, certain individuals merit a touch of ‘look the other way’ treatment. While many can acknowledge that the Irishman is in a special space in the UFC’s business policy, the treatment of the lightweight title over the past 18 months left a lot to be desired. After dismantling Eddie Alvarez at Madison Square Garden, at the bumper UFC 205 card, McGregor announced a hiatus from MMA. Fair enough. He had fought 4 times in the previous 12 months, with each event a blockbuster.

He had earned a break and a chance to rest on his swelling laurels. Besides, beneath him, there was a stacked queue of contenders that needed some sorting out. So, he could rest easy atop of the crop of the UFC’s hottest talent bed, safe in the knowledge that he was the undisputed king. That’s what interim titles are for now, right?

Few could have foreseen the circus that was to come, last summer, with the announcement of the ‘MayMac’ crossover fight. Momentarily, thoughts of the UFC were cast aside by its president, as he sniffed a historic sporting event, and a chance to milk the cash cow for its healthiest quota yet.

This, despite the fact the heaving cauldron of 155lb talent was growing discontent. An interim title had been put up for grabs between Tony Ferguson and Kevin Lee at UFC 216, following a shit-storm at UFC 209, caused by a last minute Khabib Nurmagomedov pull-out. Ferguson prevailed and immediately began an intense social media witch hunt of McGregor, punctuated at every turn by the hashtag #DefendOrVacate.

While Ferguson may be lacking in a certain charm of delivery (or originality, based on his McNuggets jibes) his message was difficult to ignore. McGregor was by this stage a year into his ‘hiatus’, which had included a boxing match with one of the greatest pugilists of our generation. He was also no closer to announcing a return to the octagon.

White was still pandering to the belief that he would back to headline another stellar card, maybe at MSG again, maybe the New Year’s Eve card, maybe an intergalactic Space Jam-like challenge. Despite the lack of clarity, there was zero talk of the ‘real’ belt being stripped. Tony Ferguson was the interim champion, until McGregor decided to return to his less profitable stomping grounds.

Or, until he tripped over some TV cables, knocking himself out of the seemingly cursed Khabib match up, again. Then it was cool to strip him, because a PPV that was caving in on Dana White’s head needed to be able to offer up a real belt. UFC 223, and its lead up, was a catastrophe. Ferguson’s injury, Max Holloway’s botched weight cut, Al Iaquinta being deemed ineligible to fight for the title left what should have been the year’s premier PPV in ruination.
That was all before Conor McGregor and cronies decided they were acting out there favourite cut scene from Smackdown 2 on the Playstation, and attacked a shuttle bus ferrying Khabib and other fighters back to their hotel, following weigh ins, removing Ray Borg, Mike Chiesa and Artem Lobov off the card. White was left understandably fuming by these actions, and made all the right noises afterwards.
“This is the most disgusting thing that has ever happened in the history of the company, and there is a warrant out for Conor McGregor’s arrest…And they’re looking for him right now. His plane cannot take off, he cannot leave the state of New York with this warrant. He’ll be grounded, and I’m assuming eventually if they don’t catch him, he’ll turn himself in. You can imagine he’s going to be sued beyond belief and this was a real bad career move for him.”     

Yes he has really suffered since. Barring his 43 seconds in court, McGregor has been banned, released, humiliated, publicly bludgeoned, discussed as the no. 1 contender for the lightweight title, now in the hands of Khabib. That seems like an apt punishment for the “most disgusting thing that has ever happened in the history of the company”. 

It is these past utterings that have possibly made White appear as weak as he ever has, while in control of the UFC. His refusal to adopt a strong arm stance with McGregor leaves him open to criticism and losing more top tier talent, in the future, as the likes of Bellator, ONE FC and other promotions offer a fairer playing field, with huge sponsorship/earning upsides.
If anyone can acknowledge that cash is king, it should be Dana White. But his ruthless pursuit of profit, and willingness to bankrupt his word of any credibility, may come back to haunt him, as fighters realise their true market value, elsewhere where companies abide by the age old adage ‘My word is my bond’.
Noel Ryan, Pundit Arena

About Noel Ryan

MMA and GAA would be at the forefront of my interests. I can also tell the difference between butter and 'I Can't Believe it's not Butter'.