Sunday, July 26, 2015

Dana White: Man of a Thousand Faces


Wow, I cannot believe I never noticed it before, but UFC President Dana White has an uncanny resemblance to Hugo 'Man of a Thousand Faces'. For those unfamiliar with Hugo, he was a popular toy in the '70's that could be transformed into different characters via disguises. Very similar to a Mr. Potato Head, which also seems to fit Dana these days.
Back in 2009 I had a different view of Dana White, that was because of a personal experience I had and witnessed with the man. In November 2009, I was in Las Vegas visiting my friends from MMA Junkie Radio Gorgeous George and Goze Garcia. This just happened to be the week prior to UFC 106. At the time I had no plans to attend the event, I was just planning to watch it with GG and Goze on TV; then it all happened.

Leading up to the event, GG and Goze had planned a couple of prime time night shows. Surprisingly on the Thursday before the Saturday night UFC, they were able to schedule Dana White to appear in studio for an interview. Dana in the meantime had tweeted about his appearance on the show and had also tweeted that he was going to be handing out free tickets to UFC 106 while there.

Suffice it to say the Mandalay Race & Sports Book where the show broadcasts from was packed; nearly 300 people showed up. One to catch a glimpse of Dana, but mainly to get their hands on some free tickets. At the time it was on my bucket list to attend a live UFC in Las Vegas. While I had seen it live in Atlantic City before, the energy of a live event in Vegas is what I wanted to experience; thus I waited outside the studio as well. However, when I saw how many people were there, I never thought I'd get a chance at some tickets; then it happened again!

Amidst the large crowd, I happened to be standing at the right place at just the right time. As I'm standing there wondering, which way Dana is coming from, someone slaps me on the back of my shoulders with their hands and says, "Boy you muthaf****s really came out for these tickets." Yes, to my surprise and luck, Dana came and just happened to make contact with me first before anyone else. Then another stroke of luck happened.

I just happened to be a wearing a MMAJunkie Radio shirt; so I told Dana I was with the show and would escort him into the studio. Dana told everyone to see his security man about the tickets. I immediately told his guy I was taking Dana inside the studio, so can I have my tickets first; he gladly obliged and thus I had four free tickets to UFC 106 in hand as can be seen in this pic I took with Dana outside the studio.

However, that isn't necessarily why Dana White was suddenly Mr. Nice Guy in my books; it was what I witnessed afterwards that gave me a positive opinion of the man. After sitting in the studio for over an hour, taking and answering all questions, he came outside the studio, where all those nearly 300 people had waited in the hopes of taking a picture or getting an autograph. Not only did he oblige, but also told everyone, "Don't worry, I'm not going anywhere" and stood there for over two hours and took every pic and signed every autograph.

Mind you this is the President of the UFC two nights before a big event. I'm sure he had things to do, but at the time he realized his fans were his most important commodity. This was six years ago; a lot has changed in that time including in my opinion of Dana White. The man who was the primary reason for saving the UFC and bringing it from obscurity to mainstream, is also the man that is slowly destroying the product he created and not realizing it.

In the last six years the UFC has gone global, signed a major TV deal with Fox and most recently inked a deal with Reebok that would make them the official sportswear of the UFC. In doing so, the brand has grown immensely in popularity and Zuffa, the ownership of the UFC of which White has a 10% piece, is flourishing. However, as the late great Biggie Smalls once said, "Mo money, mo problems."

There have been many issues in the recent past including performance enhancing drugs and legal issues with fighters I can point to, but there are three in the past week alone I want to elaborate on. First was a segment on HBO's Real Sports that discussed domestic violence in sports, primarily MMA. While the main focus of the story centered around the fighter known as 'War Machine', a former UFC veteran, and his infamous brutal attack on his then girlfriend last year, it was the facts pointed out that were most damaging.

They showed an interview White did with Fox Sports last year where he emphatically said, "Domestic violence is one thing the UFC will not tolerate and you will never come back from." Yet, they showed numerous fighters currently on the roster that the UFC has signed after multiple counts of domestic violence on their criminal record. Not a good look to say the least.

In the wake of this, in the same evening, the UFC made what many others and I consider a wrong move in so many ways, when they decided to fire legendary cutman Jacob 'Stitch' Duran. This was done solely because of comments he made about the Reebok deal when asked for his opinion by a reporter. Note, in the interview, Duran never said anything derogatory about the UFC, he just gave his opinion in terms of how the Reebok deal does not benefit him and the other cutmen on the roster. Duran was a UFC employee for 14 years, being one of the firsts hired by White when Zuffa took over the company.

That is why it is so strange and more importantly classless when White was asked live on Fox TV Saturday night about the backlash he has received in the wake of the 'Stitch' Duran firing. His response was, "Stitch Duran and I are not friends, we were work associates; we were never friends." Wow! Poignant and disturbing words from someone who has always preached loyalty and family when it comes to the UFC.

Yet the most disturbing thing of all this past week is regarding the backlash I referenced above. That has come from UFC fans from all over the world who personally questioned Dana along social media fronts, especially twitter, regarding the Duran debacle. White's response was to personally attack each and everyone who reached out to him, even going so far as to belittle some fans and telling others in not so many words, go f**k yourself, we don't need you anyway.

Yes, the same guy who six years ago cared enough about his fans to stand for more than two hours to make sure everyone left happy is now telling them we don't need you. Dana White continues to be the voice of the UFC and it's not only gotten me angry, it has me worried. It seems that every time he opens his mouth now, there's something negative and stupid coming out of it. I keep wondering when Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta, primary owners of the UFC, will finally step in and do like most owners in others sports such as baseball and either silence or fire their GM's for such acts?

Till then, I can see Dana White slowly destroying all the strides he's made with this company, including the loyalty he's garnered from hardcore fans such as myself; boycotts have actually been established on-line. Sadly, while he eerily resembles Hugo 'Man of a Thousand Faces', I guess in the end he is more like Mr. Potato Head after all.

3 comments:

  1. Thanks brother; how did I know you'd like this one? ;)

    ReplyDelete
  2. OT: Great news! Golden Tickets that are redeemable for $1,000 each will be given inside 5 random boxes of First Edition Manny Pacquiao headphones. Get this very cool MP headphones and you might be one of the lucky ones to win $1,000 too!

    ReplyDelete

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