Did you see Donald Trump last week, desperately risking injury to his crusty comb-over at Wrestlemania? He threw some weak-ass punches at Vince McMahon, absorbed an aborted “stunner” from Stone Cold, and then assumedly went back to his dressing room to bask in his relevance and virility. The CEO tried to play a part not suited to him, and ooze UFC's machismo, but all that oozed was the last ounce of his credibility. Contrast Trump's ludicrous act of self-degradation with the UFC's figurehead, company president Dana White.
Maybe you missed this.
Last June, White was negotiating with one of UFC's former poster-boys of bad-ass-ness, Tito Ortiz. Ortiz signed on the dotted line, but not before he challenged White, who was an amateur boxer in the early 90s, to a boxing match. White, eager to make the deal, said OK. He agreed to fight the Huntington Beach Bad Boy. That fight was slated to take place on saturday, March 24.
But two days before the bout, White told TSS, Ortiz called him, and left a voice message. He opted out of the fight, White says, and said that he was “letting him off the hook.” Later, Ortiz explained on his website that he wasn't about to engage in fisticuffs, even if they were with the company president who hadn't mixed it up in 15 years, without proper compensation.
As you've gathered, Dana White isn't a cookie-cutter CEO sort, who preaches the company line, is a raging workaholic and reads Jack Welch books in his spare time to master his management skills. OK, White's wife may argue that he works too many hours as he builds the UFC brand…The 37-year-old Nevada resident has, with the adventurous capitalists Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta, grown and acquired the majority of the major growth story in the sports world since…since..wait, I'm going back a few years now…probably since Nascar upgraded from redneck to semi-redneck status a few years ago.
White took some time out from an ambitious array of launches on Thursday evening to talk to TSS. He touched on his scrapped fight with Ortiz, the quality of the latest installment of the Ultimate Fighter on Spike TV (which ran on Thursday night), his Saturday pay-per-view, and Pretty Boy Floyd Mayweather, who dissed UFC and mixed martial artists on a recent teleconference call.
On Monday, Mayweather said he believes MMA is simply a fad that will burn out, said MMAer are failed boxers and wagered that any decent heavyweight could beat UFC light heavyweight (185 to 205 pounds) champion Chuck Liddell. Mayweather offered $1 million of his own dough to Liddell, in fact, if he won the boxing match.
White, who can cut a soundbite about as well as McMahon, shared his view of Mayweather's assault on his sport.
“Floyd and I were friends, we knew each other when he was an amateur,” White said. “But he doesn't know anything about mixed martial arts. Listen, boxing is game, compared to UFC. UFC is real fighting. And I came from boxing, and I still do it as a workout.”
Regarding Floyd's million-dollar-challenge, White upped the ante.
“I'll give Floyd Mayweather $2 million out of my own pocket if he wants to fight MMA,” White said. “Floyd can fight Uriah Faber, or Joe Stevenson, or Sean Sherk.”
Do I hear $3 million?
Also, White said Spike will be showing footage next week culled from six months worth of footage documenting his prep work to fight Ortiz. And even though the match didn't ultimately come off, he says the show is still entertaining, if for no other reason that it can show La-Z-Boy warriors that they can still shed the bulk, and get back into glory-days-era shape. Even if their glory days were back when mullets were worn without irony…
The UFC boss said he weighed almost 220 pounds when he accepted Ortiz' offer, and cut his poundage to 196 pounds currently. To get ready, he sparred with pro boxers, and is of the mindset that he would have hung in with Ortiz. That prospect, White said, could have been one reason that spurred Ortiz to cancel the gig.
White also told TSS that he suspects Ortiz may have been receiving advice of dubious quality. Ortiz has been linked romantically with adult film actress Jenna Jameson, and White told TSS that Jameson, functioning as Ortiz' manager, contacted a White emissary two weeks before the scheduled fight.
The actress demanded that 10 ounce glovers were to be worn, and headgear was not to be worn, for the beef. White accepted the new terms, and that, he said, probably surprised Ortiz and his braintrust.
“They were blown away,” he said.
Eight days before the settling-of-the-beef, White received psych-out text messages from Ortiz, telling him that no punches would be pulled. Bring it on, White answered. Instead, Ortiz brought out an excuse. But White says he can't blame Ortiz, really.
“It was lose-lose for him. If he kayoed me in ten seconds, he was supposed to. If I hung with him, go the distance, then it makes him look bad.”
White says he wishes Ortiz had halted the arrangement shortly after the offer was accepted, but, he says, there is a silver lining: “At least now my clothes fit me.”
NOTE: The accompanying photo is copyright 2007, Zuffa,LLC