Friday, March 9, 2007

Five Ounces of Pain: Dana White interview (Part 1 of 2)

By Sam Caplan

As part of one of the biggest juggernauts in sports, Ultimate Fighting Championship president Dana White is a busy man. The company is coming off the heels of UFC 68 this past weekend. The event, which emanated from Columbus, Ohio, set the indoor North American attendance record for a mixed martial arts event.

The week before, White was in England for a press conference to announce that the organization's UFC 70 event would take place from the Manchester Evening News Arena in Manchester, England, on April 21.

The timing of UFC 70 only adds to White's frenetic schedule. The company will be producing three major cards in a 17-day period, starting with Ultimate Fight Night 9 on April 5 and UFC 69 from Houston on April 7.

Three shows in 17 days is a lot of cards for consumers. White took time out from his busy schedule to let us know fans won't be on the hook to pay for multiple pay-per-views during such a short timeframe, with UFC 70 being available free of charge on Spike TV.

In addition to the UFC 70 announcement, White also updated us on his boxing match with Tito Ortiz, the next opponents for both Ortiz and Chuck Liddell, his thoughts on rivals Jerry Millen and Gary Shaw, and much more.

Q: What do you feel is the biggest obstacle right now in the way of continued growth for MMA?

DW: There's only 24 hours in a day. That's the biggest obstacle. Seriously, I wish I could stay up, I do stay up anyway 24 hours a day, but you can't work 24 hours a day. It's just there's not enough time to get everything done. When we started this thing I had three employees, you know, now I have like 76 employees and the company keeps growing and I don't care what everyone says, the UFC is the one out there forging the way in sports. I just wish I had more time.

Q: In a recent interview you expressed concern about boxing promoters entering MMA and possibly ruining things. Is the negative influence of boxing promoters enough to threaten all the progress the UFC has made in recent years?

DW: Not really, you know they're just bad guys; they're in it for the wrong reason. I mean, all these guys who are getting involved, they crack me up. You know you've got Gary Shaw and Jay Larkin now. You know Gary Shaw three years ago thought MMA was a joke. Jay Larkin is a guy I talked to five years ago that wouldn't put it on Showtime; didn't believe in it at all, now he's getting a paycheck from one of the companies and now he's all about it. These are all guys who didn't have the passion for it, didn't like it and didn't see the future in it.

Q: What's next for Randy Couture and Tim Sylvia?

DW: Randy Couture is on a collision course now with Mirko Cro Cop. If Mirko Cro Cop beats (Gabriel) Gonzaga (at UFC 70 on April 21), you know, which isn't an easy fight, Gonzaga is a tough guy, he'll fight Cro Cop for the title. Or, it could be Gonzaga. But Randy gets to just kick back now and watch that fight and see what happens.

Tim has proven in the past that he's the type of fighter who can pick himself up from either defeat, or bad luck, or bad judgments, or whatever it is, Tim Sylvia is a tough kid who will pick himself up and dust himself off and we'll see Tim again.

Q: Who is next in line for a shot at Anderson Silva's middleweight title?

DW: Anderson Silva will probably fight Nate Marquardt next.

Q: After the Georges St. Pierre vs. Matt Serra welterweight title fight at UFC 69, is Matt Hughes next in line for a title shot?

DW: I would have to say yes.

Q: You've said in the past that if Pride is for sale, you're interested. But do you know if Pride is indeed in fact for sale and if so, has the UFC ever been engaged directly in buyout talks?

DW: Let me tell you what, man, there's so much talk about all this stuff with Wanderlei (Silva) and Chuck and everything else, how anybody can even question the fact that I tried to make the Chuck Liddell/Wanderlei Silva fight forever is out of their mind. I mean, I sent Chuck over there three times. I sent Ricco (Rodriguez) over there when he was with us. I've been sending fighters over there. I brought Wanderlei up into the ring. I never know what the real story is with Pride and what's going on with them. That's a wacky bunch of people.

Q: So have you guys had any direct talks though in buying them out?

DW: Yeah, I mean, of course we've talked to them. You know, we've talked to them, but who the hell knows where they're at? I never know where they're at.

Q: If Pride was acquired, would it be merged into the UFC or run separately similarly to what you're doing with the WEC right now?

DW: I haven't even thought that far. We're not that far. We haven't talked that much.

Q: Can you comment on the rumors that Brandon Vera recently turned down an offer that would have paid him a guaranteed $200,000 per fight?

DW: No, I don't think that is true.

Q: Has the final fight on Vera's contract been scheduled?

DW: No, I don't think we have. I like Brandon Vera. I like him. I like him, he's a nice kid. You know, he's young and he's cocky and he's talented. And I think there's a lot of things going on in his head right now, this is just typical stuff, it isn't anything unusual. Everybody wants more money. Everybody wants to make more money. Everybody wants to do this, everybody wants to do that. There's a time progression; when you're a young, up-and-coming fighter, it takes time. You know what I mean? We've proven over the last six years we know how to build stars. So, you know, you just got to get the kid's head on right and we'll get it worked out. Brandon Vera is a good kid and we like him. We'll figure it out.

Q: Do you think maybe he's just grandstanding, or is there a real fear that he might go somewhere else?

DW: I don't ever have a fear of anybody going anywhere else. Anybody who would walk away from the UFC machine is out of their minds. They'd be hurting themselves. They'd totally be hurting themselves. Let me tell you what, man, there's a lot of Internet rumors and bulls--- out there, we treat fighters very well and the guys that are with us do very well. So, any guy that would walk from the UFC right now, especially someone we like and we're really focused on, it would be career suicide.

Q: A couple weeks ago at the press conference for UFC 70 in Manchester, you announced that Fabricio Werdum is the latest Pride fighter to defect to the UFC. Is the UFC currently in talks with other Pride fighters right now?

DW: Anybody who isn't under contract with anybody, I'm interested in. I'm talking to anybody that doesn't have a contract.

Q: There have been rumors that the Nogueira brothers' contracts with Pride are going to be up soon and that they might be going to the UFC. Has the UFC had any talks with them?

DW: (Laughs). If their contract is almost up, then I'm probably talking to them.

Q: Outside of Fedor, who is the one fighter not currently on the UFC roster that you'd like to have?

DW: From Pride? Or, from anywhere?

Q: Anywhere.

DW: I mean I'd love to have Wanderlei. I'd love to have Fedor (Emelianenko), Dan Henderson, all of them, I want them all.

Q: The UFC will be going back to England for UFC 70, and you've mentioned branching out into Mexico. Is there a timetable for when a card will be scheduled for Mexico?

DW: No. I don't have a timetable yet. We're working on it though.

Q: Is holding a show in Japan again in the near future a possibility?

DW: Yes, we're interested in doing that. There is a market over there; the market over there is going through some tough times in Japan. But there's a lot of educated fans over there, and I would love to bring a UFC event to Japan.

Q: What's the latest with HBO, and will UFC 70 be televised on HBO or PPV?

DW: I don't have the deal done yet, but UFC 70 will be on free television. It's going to be a free TV deal for the fans here in the U.S.

Q: Is it going to be on Spike?

DW: Let's see, yup. I'm the one that's always chirping about how all these guys that destroyed boxing. Everything was f------ you've got to pay for this, you've got to pay for that. I don't like to make the fans pay for every fight we have. I like to have a lot of good fights for free, and this is a great fight that we'd be giving to the fans for free.

Q: Is UFC 70 definitely going to be on Spike, or might it be on a different network?

DW: It's probably going to be on Spike.

Q: Are there any plans to televise preliminary bouts in the future and offer UFC fans all nine bouts on a fight card?

DW: The nine fights aren't for all -- we advertise, on our pay-per-view advertisement, exactly what fights are going to be on pay-per-view and what you're paying $39 for. If we have time, then yeah, we throw a couple of extra fights in there. But no, the prelim fights, and it's been that way forever, are for the people who come and buy tickets. If someone pays for tickets, anywhere from $100 to $750, you get to see nine fights. The people who pay $40 get to see the fights that we advertise on the pay-per-view. These people act like they're getting screwed out of fights; we never advertise that any of those fights would be on the pay-per-view.

Q: Kurt Angle mentioned recently in an interview that he's had talks with the UFC in the past but that you wanted him to choose between wrestling and fighting, and that recently he started talking to EliteXC and you got back into the picture. What's the latest between the UFC and Kurt Angle?

DW: I like Kurt. I've talked to Kurt a bunch of times. I'm just not sure how committed he is to fighting. I made him an offer before, and he went over and did TNA wrestling. I don't know. If the guy is seriously interested in fighting, then he should be fighting with the UFC.

Q: Do you still feel Kurt needs to choose between wrestling and the UFC, or can he do both now?

DW: I'd prefer he did one or the other. I mean, how the hell are you going to professional wrestle and professional fight? It doesn't work that way. It takes a lot of time and training to dedicate to fighting.

Q: He actually talked about in an interview on The Bubba the Love Sponge Show a couple of days ago that he would take a hiatus from wrestling in order to train for six months and get ready for his first fight.

DW: At his age and having never had a pro fight, that would be a very good idea. This thing isn't a joke. You don't just decide "I'm a professional wrestler I think I'm going to fight." It takes a lot of time, dedication and hard work -- just like wrestling does. I'm sure these guys have to train hard and have to get in great shape to professional wrestle. You can't just jump up one day and say, "I'm going to be a pro fighter and I think I'll fight next month." It doesn't work that way. It doesn't even come close to working that way.

The guy, seriously, is a legend in Olympic wrestling, and is a legend in professional wrestling. I'm not going to bring anybody in here for some type of freak show to get hurt. If the guy wants to be serious and wants to come over and train -- and I can hook him up with all the right people to train with, the right training places, and everything else. If he wants to be serious, I'm interested, but I'm not going to bring him over here to get hurt.

Q: Does the UFC have any interest in Brock Lesnar?

DW: Very interested in Brock Lesnar. Brock Lesnar is out there, I believe right now he had signed a deal with K-1, and he's out there training hard from what I hear, and he's taking this serious. And that's what you need to do. Brock Lesnar seems like a serious guy to me.

Q: Have you had any contract talks with him?

DW: None.

Q: What's the latest on your boxing match with Tito?

DW: (Laughs.) I've been training hard every day and it's kicking the s--- out of me. This was the dumbest thing I've ever done. But yes, I'm following it through, and I'm giving it 100 percent.

Q: Will the match be televised?

DW: It will. It will definitely be televised, it won't be live.

Q: Is it going to be on Spike?

DW: There's going to be a show about the fight on Spike and then the actual fight itself will be on

Q: Has an opponent for Tito at UFC 71 been decided?

DW: We are. We are talking about Rashad Evans right now.

Q: In the past you've mentioned that you consider Rashad Evans, Michael Bisping and Diego Sanchez as three fighters who will be a big part of the UFC's future. What other young fighters currently on the UFC roster do you have high expectations for?

DW: Keith Jardine, Mike Swick, there's a ton of guys right now. We have a ton of guys out there that look great. You know, that Diego Sanchez-Josh Koscheck fight (at UFC 69 on April 7) is interesting. Whoever wins that is definitely in the mix.

Q: EliteXC president Gary Shaw questioned your credentials several weeks back, saying that "anytime that Dana White would like to match his resume against mine in the field of sports, fighting, regulatory, you can give him my e-mail or my cell number." Would you like to respond to those comments?

DW: (Laughs.) Let me tell you what, he wants to compare resumes? I'm not going to be goofy like that; compare resumes. I guarantee you I'm a billion times more successful than Gary Shaw is. Gary Shaw has no fighters left, they all left him. He had no boxing business left so now he's coming over to MMA. I don't know, how good are his credentials? Not only that, we'll answer the questions to that in another year, year and a half when whatever the name of company is -- what is that anyway?

Q: EliteXC.

DW: Yeah, isn't that the dietary supplement s--- that killed Anna Nicole Smith? What is that? What does that even mean?

I rip on Gary Shaw a lot, and seriously to be honest with you, everybody knows me I'm a d--- sometimes, I don't know the guy but if you look at his track record, he's lost every fighter he's ever had. Every boxer that's ever been with him has left him. He's getting into MMA because he can't make anymore money in boxing. It is what it is. I mean, I'm not trying to terrorize the guy, but the facts are the facts, and the guy wants to compare resumes? Yeah, OK.

Editor's note: Click the link for Part 2 of this interview with UFC president Dana White. In Part 2, White responds to accusations made by Pride USA's Jerry Millen in a recent CBS interview . White also reveals the future plans for Chuck Liddell's next opponent, and his disappointment with Travis Lutter. Other topics include Frank Shamrock, Forrest Griffin, Evan Tanner, Sean Sherk and Phil Baroni.


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