I’ve been thinking about tackling this issue for a while, as a lot of the attitudes expressed regarding UFC President Dana White, both positively and negatively tend to amaze and/or annoy me.
However, following an innocent tweet by our own @RossStevenson last week, we got a reply from the man himself, and he wasn’t best pleased with us. See our article on Cyborg signing with Invicta for a full breakdown of that exchange.
However, despite the punitive tone of our only interaction to date, let me make it clear that this isn’t going to be one of those keyboard warrior rampages trashing Dana. Quite the reverse, in fact.
Lets break it down. Dana White is the President of the UFC, one of the most powerful and visible figures in all of mixed martial arts. There could be a case for him being responsible for the resurgence if modern MMA as he was the driving force behind Zuffa’s purchase of the UFC and all that’s come after.
Of course, success breeds contempt and there are plenty folks who are only too keen to attack Dana, seeing him as unprofessional, hurting the credibility of the sport with his impassioned and opinionated statements, his tendency to use profanities as punctuation, and citing his sheer public profile and visibility as a sign of personal vainglory when the spotlight should be on the athletes.
Now, I can see that argument but I really don’t agree, and here’s why.
For a start, you have to remember that there is more to Dana than we see on TV, in his regular vlogs and public appearances. That is media Dana, his public face which is there to serve a purpose in the promotion of his company, and also as degree of a shield towards his personal life.
In a very real sense, you shouldn’t judge Dana White, as a person or even as a businessman on his almost cartoon like public persona. I mean, do you draw assumptions on Vincent Kennedy McMahon’s actual personality or business acumen from the onscreen antics of Mr McMahon?
Ok, that might be a bit of a fail in terms of successful rhetorical questions, as the billions of words of bile aimed at Vince attests, but it illustrates the point that ‘Dana Fuckin’ White’ is as much a character as Mr McMahon. Believe, me you don’t get to be president of a multimillion dollar company by being quite as impulsive as those characters may seem.
If you accept that DFW is a promotional persona, a vehicle for promoting the UFC then you also have to accept that you have to take everything Dana says with an element of asking Cui Bono… ‘who benefits’?
The answer will always be – the UFC. It’s true that Dana rarely has nice things to say about former employees or business partners, especially if they’re parting has been acrimonious. By the same token, he’ll offer reasonable explanations and/or vitriolic diatribes defending UFC policy, currently contracted stars who are taking abuse from fans or athletic commissions, and generally try and cast anything that could make the UFC money in a positive light.
Sure, he’ll change his mind, say things that may seem unfair and are perhaps objectively unhelpful but it’s not his job to be your 100% accurate new reporter. It’s his job to push the UFC, and he does that exceedingly well.
It’s hard for accusations of unprofessionalism to stick when the UFC continues to grow, continues to broker deals with more influential partners and increase its worldwide footprint. If Dana was REALLY holding MMA back with his tendency to hold grudges and lapse into the vernacular… why isn’t the promotion run by a mealy mouthed lawyer accelerating past his?
Similarly, many might accuse Dana of stealing the spotlight from his fighters, which is quite a narrow minded viewpoint. Most MMA fighters regard their media obligations at best as a necessary evil and often as an outright imposition. Dana’s role as front and centre ringmaster for the UFC keeps the spotlight on what’s going on in the promotion while keeping the fighters actually appearances to a minimum.
Dana is the one who is at every pre and post fight press conference, every announcement press conference and he is the one who hangs around the media scrum for ages afterwards answering all our questions about this fighter and that fighter, and this issue of the moment and that recent controversy. For the most part, he does it in good humour and I for one, feel that his passion for the sport shines through.
Now, I’m not saying Dana is a saint or the easiest guy to do business with because I simply do not know. I’ve never met or talked with him, but I’ve learned enough to know that folks don’t rise to the top of international companies and stay there, in high profile roles for a long time without having some real skills. I’ve also learned that you have to take what such people say with a grain of salt.
If you expect the promotional figurehead of a private company to tell you the 100% unexpurgated truth at all times, you are going to have a miserable and impoverished life. I mean, did you ever expect Steve Jobs to say ‘well, actually the Samsung tablets are pretty much as good as iPads and a bit cheaper…?’
Do I suggest for one second that everything Dana does is right, or that I agree with everything thing he says? Hell no, but then I find him an engaging ringleader, appreciate what he continues to do for a sport I love and I’m not going to pedantically cross reference this week’s soundbyte with something he said last year. I tend to disagree with Dans on a whole raft of things from drugs to judging, to determining contenders, to cutting fighters and a million other things including his desire to promote Nick the Tooth as a personality via his vlogs. I mean, what does that guy ACTUALLY DO?
To date, Kumite’s only interaction with Dana has been him reacting to one of our news posts in a less than complementary fashion. Did that upset us? Not at all, because we very much believe in calling it as we see it, and I’d far rather singe the tail of the big dog and get snarled at than cower in front of them eating shite, hoping for a pat on the back.
Pissing off authority figured has always been a good sign that you are doing something right…
Then again we are bloggers, fans who take the time to comment on MMA. We can get all prissy about our ideals of how things should be done, but it’s not our billion dollar company on the line.
We’ll continue to praise and criticise Dana, as well as every other MMA figure out there on an issue by issue basis, as we see it.
That said, I can’t help but feel that for so many of the folks who like to bad mouth Dana, it’s a poorly disguised case of jealousy, the bitterness that comes from being a never-was, hating the guy with the world in his hand, and clearly loving every minute of it.
It’s cool to hate the boss, but that doesn’t make it right.