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Saturday, August 25, 2012

MGS Chat: UFC President Dana White

It seems that the Ultimate Fighting Championship has been a media darling since it was founded. President Dana White is everything the pundits want. From straightforward answers, to matching the best fighters to organizational transparency, White is the complete package. But event disaster struck this week as the UFC 151 card cancelled its lucrative pay-per-view event for the very first time in its history.

I was part of the drama-filled conference as White explained his decision...

Dana White: This is probably one of my all-time lows as being President of the UFC over the last 11 years. For the first time in 11 years we're gonna cancel an event. This Saturday's fight at Mandalay Bay is being cancelled. Dan Henderson has a partial tear in his MCL and couldn't continue. He tried to train. He tried to continue to work out. He saw doctors and there was nothing we could do to save that fight. One of the things that you guys have heard me brag about a million times, how UFC doesn't have to cancel events, we can always find a replacement. For somebody to fight Jon Jones on eight days' notice is tough to do, but to be totally honest with you guys, one guy did. Not only when we called him did he say, 'I'll take the fight,' he said, 'I'll fly to Las Vegas tonight and fight him," and that was Chael Sonnen. Chael Sonnen accepted the fight with Jon Jones, wanted the fight bad. As of 8-9 o'clock last night, we had a fight. We here at the UFC started working, creating different commercials, PR started to crank up. I was gonna do this call and obviously it was gonna be a different call this morning but the one thing that I never thought in a million years would happen, happened. Jon Jones said, 'I'm not fighting Chael Sonnen with eight days notice." Again, something that's never happened in UFC history. A guy who's a world champion and considered one of the pound-for-pound best turns down a fight. That has never happened either. So right now what's happening is this fight is cancelled. It'll be Jon Jones vs. Lyoto Machida on Saturday September 22nd on the Toronto, Canada card at UFC 152.

Q: Did light heavyweight champion Jon Jones know what would happen if he turned down the Chael Sonnen fight?

DW: Believe me, I haven't slept at all since last night. [Jon Jones] has been hit with some options. He knows what the consequences were and what would happen.

Q: Did Lyoto Machida get the call to step in as well?

DW: When it was going down and we were trying to make the fight, Machida was actually in the air, then landed in a connector fight for Brazil. He was already gone. He was in the air. I can accept that. I can accept why Machida didn't take the fight. Completely different circumstances. Completely different story. When [Jon Jones] got the call he said, 'I've got to sit down and talk to my coaches.' His coach Greg Jackson says there's no way you take this fight. You don't take this fight on eight days' notice. It would be the biggest mistake of your entire career. Wow. Chael Sonnen is a 185-pounder who wants to move up to 205 who hasn't trained a day for this fight and the fight is in eight days and he says he'll fly to Vegas tonight the supposed pound-for-pound third best fighter in the world, the world champion. How much faith do you have in your champion and your guy? I literally just bumped into Greg Jackson the other day and I was kinda joking around about some of the things I've said. I'll tell you what. I'll go on the record saying this guy is a fucking sport-killer. This guy is from another planet. I've never even seen anything like it in my life.

Q: What about Dan Henderson's injury?

DW: He's got a partial tear in his MCL. He'd like a little more time to take this fight but we can't be in the same position. We can't be sitting around all worried about if Dan can be ready for the 22nd and he said the same thing. We'll see what happens. It's not like Dan has to go in and he needs surgery but he's got a tear in his MCL and he has problems with lateral movement and some other positions so he couldn't do the fight. Jon Jones is in shape and he's ready to go. Machida is next in line and Dan's hurt so that's the fight that's gonna happen. It's in Jon Jones' head that he didn't prepare for this guy. I don't know know, man. In the history of the UFC, Tito's been the most difficult guy in the history of the company since I've been here and Tito Ortiz didn't not take fights.

Q: How will Jon Jones' image be affected and what are your feeling on his 'business-like' approach to fighting?

DW: I don't think it's great. The first fight ever cancelled in UFC history since we owned the company and the first champion to ever turn down a match. Let me tell you what. (laughs) I always laugh when I hear a fighter say, "I'm a businessman." No you're not. You're a fighter. You see moves like this and other things where if they were real businessmen, we wouldn't be having this conference call right now.

Q: Will Dan Henderson still be the number one contender when he comes back?

DW: You know how that always works. Look at Rashad. If you don't get that shot right when it's there and available, all kinds of crazy things can happen, or maybe it will be available right when he comes back. Who knows? I can't answer that question.

Q: Why did you decided to scrap the entire event:?

DW: Because we're eight, seven, I don't know how many days away we are to the fight and this thing went right down to the wire right before we got on this call. We don't have time. We're strapped for time. If Dan Henderson would have gotten hurt two weeks' ago, this would have been a different story. But eight days and Jon Jones acting like this and all this other bullshit, we can't do it.

Q: How does this change your relationship with Jon Jones:?

DW: A lot. Jon Jones has been one of these guys with as much as he's won and all the things he's accomplished in a short amount of time, he burst onto the scene a year and a half ago. He's ripped though the top guys. He's been a champion that hasn't been very popular, you know? I don't think this is going to do wonders for his popularity. As far as his relationship with us, me and Lorenzo are both disgusted.

Q: ehat are the ramifications of cancelling the show:

DW: It's a major, major deal. We lose shitloads of money, money that's already been spent. We're eight days out. We spent shitloads of money on this fight. I could sit here and we've been talking about it all morning about how far this goes and how bad it hurts but I don't know because we've never done it. I don't know what I don't know yet.

Q: What about ticket refunds and the financial backlash?

DW: They'll get refunded. Just if you were going to a boxing match or a concert and the thing got cancelled. You call Ticketmaster and everything gets refunded. Cancel your flights and hopefully everything is refundable and you can switch them to Toronto or another fight if you want to. {The financial backlash], it's huge. The prelims were gonna air on FX and all the marketing that's been spent. We don't play. We spent some money. We've got billboards in Time Square, New York, all the money. You've seen television ads that've been running. The list goes on and on. It's a massive, massive hit.

Q: What are your feelings about Greg Jackson

DW: I'm very confused by his whole fucking business plan. I don't give a shit what Greg Jackson thinks. This guy is a fucking weirdo man. Turning down a fucking fight, saying if he doesn't turn down a fight with Chael Sonnen it would be the biggest mistake of his entire career because he's not ready for that guy? Greg Jackson should never be interviewed by anybody ever again except by a psychiatrist.

That's a wrap. Thanks for stopping by!