Q&A with UFC president Dana White
Irrepressible UFC president Dana White paid a visit to Yahoo! Sports recently and sat down for a talk on a wide range of subjects, from his opinion on Kimbo Slice to whether he wants his children to become fighters to which WEC fight he most wants to see. Here’s a transcript of the conversation:
Dave Doyle: We heard your video blog was coming back.
Dana White: I’m the Brett Favre of video blogging. I don’t know who’s retired and come back more times, me or him.
I live a pretty crazy lifestyle. You tuned into my video blogs and there’s jets and there’s cars and I’m making big-money bets with guys and [expletive] around with my friends and having fun.
Everyone loved the video blogs, but some people started writing letters like, “I’m about to lose my home.” I got letters like “Me and my daughters are going out on the street, and you’re betting more money on who can last on a treadmill for five minutes than I’ll make in two months.” It’s kind of like, “Whoa,” like a slap to me and slaps me back to reality, that people are hurting out there. It really messed me up for awhile. Three years ago, my video blogs would have been fun because everyone was making money and everything was great, the unemployment rate was down.
DD: So why did you bring it back?
DW: Everyone has been messaging me, everyone wants me to bring the video blogs back, from fans to [UFC co-owner] Lorenzo [Fertitta], these things pull a quarter-million hits just on YouTube. My video blog rates higher than most television shows do.
I’m just going to be more conscious of what goes up there. I’m not trying to run around and flaunt my life, “Oh, look at this and look at that,” I just want it to be fun.
The reality is, behind the scenes (footage) isn’t all that exciting. I’m not going around 24 hours a day shooting craps on the corner with guys. I’m sitting in my car going to the next [expletive] interview. How much of that can you watch?
There were times when you’d look on my blogs and there would be comments, “Hey douchebag, put the fighters on here instead of you.” At the end of the day, I’m a fight promoter. My job is to go out, make it interesting and entertaining for the people, do anything I can to promote the fight. People got into the blog and there was this awareness that I was going out and doing all the stuff for the fight on Saturday. But for Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, it’s not like all [expletive] excitement and I’m doing [expletive] that you want to watch on YouTube.
DD: You talked a lot of trash about Kimbo Slice. How has your perception of him changed?
DW: Here’s the thing: Everything that I said about Kimbo Slice back then was absolutely true. I don’t take one word of that back. The difference is, I said, “The only way he ever gets into the UFC is if he goes through ‘The Ultimate Fighter.’” I respect the fact that he stepped up and did it, because there’s a lot of freak-show stuff out there that he could have done for better money. And it shows me that he really wants to give it a shot.
Kimbo Slice the man, you watch the YouTube videos of this guy in backyards, and they start fighting and you think this guy’s a thug. You think he’s a bad guy, you have this perception of him and then you meet him, it isn’t true. It’s the exact opposite. He’s a really good guy. In the negotiations for “The Ultimate Fighter,” not once ever did he say, “Man, you talked some [expletive] about me.” He was all business.
DD: Do you ever take a day off, just shut off the phone?
DW: Never. The phone’s never shut off. There’s never a day you don’t work. Just doesn’t happen. Every day, when I get out of bed in the morning and my big toe hits the floor. There’s one thing that’s guaranteed: bad [expletive] is going to happen. It doesn’t matter if it’s Saturday, Sunday, Christmas, Chanukah or [expletive] Easter, bad [expletive] could happen, man. That’s the one guarantee I have in my life.
DD: Do your kids understand that what dad does for a living is different from most fathers?
DW: Our boys are 7 and 8. When we go to the mall, the kids are always like, “Dad, people always want to take pictures of you.” They love the UFC. They get it. My family is really cool with dealing with it. My wife, we’ll be sitting there at a movie or whatever, you’re trying to do normal [expletive], you’re always interrupted, whether it’s people coming up to you or a phone call you gotta take.
DD: Are the kids training in martial arts yet?
DW: My kids have been training since they were 3. They started with boxing because that’s the easiest thing to grasp. They’re in Muay Thai now. I won’t put them into jiu-jitsu until they’re 12 years old. I’m already the John McCarthy of my house. There’s already fighting going on there. I don’t need them putting submissions on each other at age 8.
DD: What if they turned 18 and told you they wanted to be fighters?
DW: Here’s the thing: I’m in the business, so it’s not what I would love to see my kids do. But the reality is, every job sucks, every job has ups and downs. My thing with my kids is, I want my kids to do something they absolutely love to do. I swear to God, if my kids, when they’re 18, if they come to me and say, “Dad, I love pumping gas. I love getting up in the morning, I love grabbing the handle, I love the smell of the gas station,” I’d say, “Go for it,” because if you love it that much at 18, he’s probably going to end up owning 25 gas stations by the time he’s 30. Anything you love to do that much, you’re going to be successful at. And at the end of the day, it’s all about being happy.
I’m lucky to be in the position I’m in right now. I’m doing what I want to do. I tried to go to college, I barely got out of high school. I went to college, and what I saw was all these kids sitting around that were told they had to go to college. Talk to a kid and say, “What’s your major?” (They’ll answer) “My major’s political science right now, but I’m probably going to finance” – they change major [expletive] 17 times because they have no clue what to do. So they walk out with a degree and go, “What am I going to do with this [expletive] thing?” They don’t know what they want. You got all these people who sit in traffic every day and drive to a job where they’re miserable with what they’re doing. For me, it’s all about doing what you love to do and being happy.
DD: Other than marketability, why did you gamble on Brock Lesnar when he had only one career fight?
DW: We sat down and talked. He came to an event, his people said, “We’d like to talk to you tonight.” So we went into a back room, started talking and he says, “I want to fight in the UFC.” I said, “Dude, you’re 1-0. This isn’t the place to learn how to fight. You fight in the smaller leagues and you work your way up.” He said, “I just fought in a smaller league (K-1’s 2007 card in Los Angeles). He said, “It was the worst experience of my life. Those people had no clue what they’re doing, it was amateur. I want to be with you guys.”
The only reason I said yes was because of the athlete he is. He was one of the best college wrestlers in the country, he was a great athlete doing the WWE [expletive] he did and he almost made the Minnesota Vikings – they cut him because of his age, he was the last guy they cut. A guy who is that good of an athlete, and he has the star power that he had coming in behind him, I took a shot. You don’t see me do that too often.
DD: As a fight fan, is there any fight in the WEC that you personally want to see?
DW: I like that kid Brian Bowles. He knocked out Miguel Torres. Wow. That was impressive. How about if Brian Bowles fought Mike Brown? That’s an interesting fight.
DD: Would the WEC fighters lose something if you moved them from the smaller WEC cage to the bigger UFC Octagon?
DW: Actually, we’ve been talking about making the Octagon smaller. We’re considering making it smaller. [UFC matchmaker] Joe Silva wants it. I think he wants to turn the thing into a [expletive] bathtub. Have them fight in a little tollbooth.
Question from reader Eric of Beverly Hills, Calif: If you could fight one non-MMA personality, who would it be and why?
I don’t want to [expletive] fight anybody. If I could bring somebody in and get their ass kicked, who would it be? Let me think about that one. I would bring in the executives from Showtime. Those pompous, arrogant jackasses. OK, quote me word for word. Bring in those pompous, arrogant jackasses from Showtime, and they can come in, and I’d bring in, who’s our smallest fighter we have? Bring in a 100-pound fighter and kick the [expletive] out of all of those dorks.
DD: Has anything changed between you and Quinton Jackson?
DW: Nothing’s changed, but he’ll be back. He’ll fight. “Rampage” is mad right now, he’ll do his movie things, but we’ll figure it out. He knows this is where his money is.
DD: Who is going to win the World Series?
DW: Oh man, baseball. You know I’m a Red Sox fan. I’m half a Phillies fan, too, because of (Fertitta family friend) Shane Victorino. While my heart is obviously with the Red Sox, I’d love to see Shane Victorino win another World Series.