I thought it was pretty interesting what he said about GSP, the Sanchez-Kos fight, and LHW next contender.
With his Ultimate Fighting Championship methodically out-striking boxing in media relations, company head Dana White has little trouble finding a receptive audience for his particular brand of blunt dialogue.
Days before May 26's marquee fight between light heavyweight champion Chuck Liddell (Pictures) and Quinton Jackson (Pictures) in Las Vegas, White fielded questions from journalists during a teleconference. Apart from his expected enthusiasm over the event, the figurehead had plenty to say about his seemingly decaying acquisition of PRIDE, the near-retirement of Diego Sanchez (Pictures), and whether controversial figures like Kurt Angle and Brock Lesnar (Pictures) would be welcome additions to the Octagon.
The most frequently broached topic during the nearly two-hour exchange was Zuffa's ongoing problems sorting through the embers of Japan's PRIDE organization. After an April announcement that a deal to purchase their promotional ***** had been completed, rumors circulated that due diligence had unearthed information that could wind up killing the transaction.
Citing a hectic travel schedule, White was non-committal about the fate of the buyout. "That company (Dream Stage Entertainment) is such a mess, we're still trying to figure out how we're going to do this whole thing," he said. "These guys are out of business for a reason. But one way or another, you'll see the top guys fighting the top guys. It's all a part of doing business. I'm not concerned about it at all."
Shogun and Silva to UFC?
Following enrollment by PRIDE alumni Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (Pictures) and Mirko Filipovic (Pictures), White promised that Saturday's winner between Liddell and Jackson would have an imported challenger to contend with.
"Whoever wins this fight, somebody has already challenged them. We'll announce that on Saturday night."
Though he stopped short of naming Mauricio "Shogun" Rua, White imagined that Liddell is only two men short of "cleaning out" his division. "One of those guys would be Shogun. I think you'll see Chuck fight Shogun within the next year."
Rua's stablemate, former PRIDE champion Wanderlei Silva (Pictures), seems to have equal opportunity in the mix. "We gotta bring Wanderlei in and give him a fight in the UFC. Let's see who wins the fight this Saturday and (then we can) possibly build up a fight with Chuck or Quinton against Wanderlei."
Of Saturday's rematch, which presents current MMA superstar Liddell with the opportunity to defeat everyone he's ever faced, White maintained that Jackson's athletic ability will make for a challenging fight.
"Rampage has KO power in both hands. He's got a great chin and he's a good wrestler. He's a very powerful guy. Stylistically, it's a dangerous fight for Chuck. I think it's going to be exciting. Both these guys have great wrestling skills, and Rampage isn't afraid of him. He'll go toe to toe with him, and he's beat Chuck before."
Discussing Jackson's average performance against Marvin Eastman (Pictures) in his February UFC debut, White believed that Jackson "fights to the level of his competition. He did just enough to beat Eastman. He KOed him, but it wasn't what everybody was expecting for his first fight in UFC.
"Thing is, Rampage wants to make a lot of money. He'll joke around and tell you how many kids he's got. He wants to win that title. He knows how much his life will change if he beats Chuck. I think we'll see a great fight because of that."
Earlier in the year, concern that Liddell's high profile may be catching up to him was fueled by his infamous Dallas morning show appearance, where he appeared disoriented. "The fame and PR and movies and TV shows, it gets to you," White said. "It catches up to you and kicks you in the nuts. And we saw that happen with his interview in Texas. We flew out there to see what was going on with him. We got him taken care of. But it happens to the best of them."
Boxing vs. MMA
Beginning with Floyd Mayweather's tirade against UFC athletes, the mainstream media has enjoyed perpetuating the ongoing boxer/MMA fantasy debate. Short of employing the 38-0 Mayweather, however, White isn't that intrigued by the clash of combat sports.
"I'm not really interested in that. Floyd Mayweather, obviously, may be greatest boxer ever. He may not put on the most exciting fights, but there's no doubt he's the most talented guy. A challenge from somebody like that means something."
Less meaningful to White are challenges from boxers like Kermit Clintron, who recently expressed a desire to fight in a mixed-style arena. "I'm not going to have some boxer come in that nobody knows. I know exactly what's going to happen when a boxer fights a UFC guy. It's going to be over like that. If Mayweather wants to do it, I'll do it with him, because I consider him to be one of the best boxers ever."
Sanchez: Staph Infection Could've Cost Him Koscheck Fight
On the topic of Hispanic fighters and their place in the flourishing promotion -- Roger Huerta (Pictures) recently made the cover of Sports Illustrated -- White touched on Diego Sanchez (Pictures)'s unexpectedly poor performance against Josh Koscheck (Pictures). The day before the bout, Sanchez was prepared to announce his retirement.
"The day of the weigh-ins, we were going to announce Diego's retirement because the test came up that he had Hepatitis C. We kept testing him. The doctors were baffled. They eventually decided that he doesn't have Hep C, but they didn't know what was wrong with him. So he goes in and fights that ****ty, horrible fight that everyone saw."
The day after, Sanchez developed a "hole in his thigh the size of a coffee cup." He was diagnosed with a staph infection.
Prompted to assess a variety of combat sports topics, White offered his trademark candor.
Remarking on the upcoming bout between vaunted Internet personality Kimbo Slice and aging boxer Ray Mercer, White used labels like "disgusting" and "unfortunate," professing little interest in the match.
"I can't believe the state of New Jersey sanctioned that fight."
Touching on K-1's tumultuous week in trying to obtain a California license, White scoffed that the event would even transpire. "These guys from K-1 are coming in and telling you, ‘We're gonna sell out a 100,000 seat arena.' You idiots! You can't sell out a ballroom in Las Vegas! Come on. Give me a break. It's insane. These guys couldn't give 100,0000 tickets away. Every time they have a K-1 in Vegas, they give away tickets for a ballroom in the Mirage. It's comical to me."
Told that Tito Ortiz (Pictures) was being courted by the IFL to become one of their coaches, White sighed. "The IFL doesn't phase me one bit. It's like team tennis. That didn't work, and team fighting definitely won't work. Nobody wants to see team fighting. They've got the Woodchucks vs. the Crazy Beavers. Is that what you want to see on a Saturday night? It's a retarded concept."
The contentious relationship with Ortiz continued, with White reserving his harshest words for his onetime marquee attraction. "Tito's such a *****. He cries about everything. Shut up, Tito. Show up and fight and do what you're supposed to do. This kid would step over a dollar to pick up a dime. Shut up and fight Rashad Evans (Pictures) and beat him. He's always crying about something. Do you hear me saying anything about Tito?
"The kid is out of his mind."
White says an HBO deal has yet to be finalized, citing control of production as a major point of contention … Brandon Vera (Pictures) is "with us and will be with us" … Management for Kurt Angle continues to explore a UFC deal. White would like to see him get six months of solid training in before taking any fight … White expects to hold a show in Mexico at the beginning or middle of 2008 … An event in New Jersey is likely for the fall … A pending bout between Georges St. Pierre (Pictures) and Josh Koscheck (Pictures) will "absolutely" determine the number-one contender for Matt Serra (Pictures)'s welterweight title … Speaking of GSP's upset defeat to Serra, White recalled his pre-bout locker room visit with the former champ. "This kid was so nervous, it was blowing my mind. I think he needs to work on his mental game, because his physical game is second to none."