LAS VEGAS – Nearly two dozen reporters sat silently around a long conference table as Dana White challenged them. Give me a name of any fighter you think is on steroids, the UFC president spat, and I'll have them drug tested today.
He held his flip phone open in the palm of his hand, ready to dial.
No one said a word as White shot hard glances at the reporters staring at him.
Give me a name, he demanded, and I'll test them today, or don't ever say it to me again. He was yelling, his face reddened, the fury evident. He sounded more like he was looking for a fight than trying to promote one.
"Give me one [expletive] name right now, I'll get them on the phone, and somebody will drive to their [expletive] house today and will test them," White said. "Say it. Say it."
After pausing for a second to silence, he resumed.
"Then don't ever [expletive] say it to me again," he said, defiantly. "You guys like to play these [expletive] games. Let's do it. I'm ready. I'm down. Let's do this right now. Give me one name. Give me 10 names. Give me all the names you want; I'll test all these [expletives] right now."
The reporters remained silent. It's not a reporter's job to make news; it's to report the news. But White was gunning for a fight.
He raved on, often shouting loudly, as he defended his fighters against claims their ranks are full of performance-enhancing drug users and his company against allegations that it turns a blind eye to their usage.
If you wanted to know Dana White, you needed to be in a conference room at 2960 West Sahara where, for nearly two hours, White put on a show equal to any seen on the famed Las Vegas Strip.
For the first 40 or so minutes, White playfully sparred with the Las Vegas-based reporters who'd come to the UFC headquarters to hear him discuss several upcoming fight cards.
He made plenty of news and explained how the UFC landed Patrick Cummins to replace Rashad Evans in a fight on Feb. 22 against Daniel Cormier at UFC 170.
He noted that the estimate of a four-week rehabilitation that UFC officials initially said Evans would require for a knee injury that forced him out of UFC 170 turned out to be wrong. Evans will need surgery, White said, and will be sidelined far longer than four weeks.
He discussed the long-range implications of UFC Fight Pass, the prospects of a standard UFC uniform, related news that Ian McCall is injured and out of his March 8 match against Brad Pickett and raved about women's bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey.
"She's the hugest superstar," White said of Rousey, who will defend her belt against Sara McMann at UFC 170. "I'm going to go out and say she's the biggest star we've ever had."
White said depending on how the pay-per-view results do on Feb. 22, Rousey, in just her third UFC fight, could break into the company’s top 10 in career earnings.
But then a reporter asked White if a fight between Rousey and Cris "Cyborg" Justino would ever come to fruition and everything changed.
White spent at least the next half hour, perhaps 45 minutes, out of his chair, pacing the room. He shouted so loudly at one point as he discussed Justino and the UFC's efforts to combat performance-enhancing drug usage among its fighters that Ike Lawrence Epstein, working in an office directly above the conference room White was in, raced downstairs to check on White.
Epstein, the UFC's chief operating officer, opened the door to the glass-paneled conference room and slipped in.
"You OK?" he said, haltingly, to White. "I heard all of the noise."
White laughed, but he immediately rejoined the battle. Justino fights at featherweight, and has several times challenged Rousey to a fight. But Rousey fights at bantamweight and Justino said she couldn't make the 135-pound bantamweight limit.
Justino went on national television in late 2012 to hold a news conference with her manager, ex-UFC champion Tito Ortiz, one of White's favorite targets, to discuss her interest in a match with Rousey. She said it had to be at 145 pounds, though, because her doctor told her she risked death trying to get to 135.
A cardiologist who examined Justino, then known as Cyborg Santos, told her she couldn't safely fight at 135 and wouldn't give her medical clearance. Trying to cut that much weight, she said, might also prevent Justino from having a child.
White repeated those details with great relish. He was out of his seat, pacing around, frequently shouting loudly. He took a few swipes at the reporters in the room for what he said was the media's glee in questioning middleweight contender Vitor Belfort about his use of testosterone replacement therapy.
He said he couldn't understand the double standard when it came to Justino.
"She got busted for drugs," White said of Justino. "I mean, really look at this thing. You guys want to kick Vitor Belfort in the [groin] every [expletive] second of every day at every press conference and everything else. And you want to ask me if [expletive] Cyborg is going to fight Ronda. First, she said she would die."
He then gestured toward a reporter who much earlier had asked White about Cormier's longstanding difficulties making weight. He began speaking much more quickly and, hard as it might be to fathom, more loudly.
"He was just saying, 'How is Cormier going to make 205? I think this is dangerous. Blah, blah, blah.' This girl said she would die if she goes to 135, tested positive for [expletive] drugs, but you ask me if she's going to fight Ronda Rousey. When's the Ronda Rousey fight going to happen?"
The reporter attempted to explain himself, but White would have none of it. He was on a roll. He proceeded to take pot shots at Ortiz, whom he once managed, for his handling of Justino. He was determined to quash this once and for all.
He was clearly miffed that Justino's name was brought up and mentioned in connection with Rousey's.
"She's not a 135-pounder and said she'll die [if she tries to make it]," White said. "The problem with the whole Cyborg thing, the way it was played out, first of all, we can all sit here and say she couldn't have hired a bigger [expletive] idiot to be her manager. OK? That's first of all. Mistake No. 1. She made a lot of mistakes in her career that we all know about, but after we came in and bought Strikeforce, that was mistake No. 1.
"Tito has done more [expletive] to damage his career, his image and his [expletive] life than any fighter I've ever met, and that's her manager. They come out in this press conference and say, 'She will die. She will die if she goes to 135. … So I'm going to go before an athletic commission and say I want to make the fight between Ronda Rousey and [expletive] Cyborg Santos at 135 pounds? She's on record saying she'll die. What if she [expletive] dies?"
That led him back to another passionate defense of Rousey. This time, he used heavyweight Alistair Overeem as the foil.
White was angered when Overeem called out Brock Lesnar, the former heavyweight champion who is retired and now working for the WWE, following his win over Frank Mir at UFC 169. White said shortly after that Feb. 1 match that he'd offered Overeem a fight against Junior dos Santos, one a five-rounder in a main event and one a three-rounder in a co-main event. White said Overeem turned them down, citing a rib injury.
"I'll bet his rib wouldn't hurt if we got him [a fight with] Brock Lesnar," White said. "I'll bet his rib would be fine then."
White then laid out many of the reasons he is so fond of Rousey, whom he said is the antithesis of Overeem.
This was vintage White, blazing on and not caring about the implications. Overeem remains a popular figure among fans, but White was unconcerned whether it could cost the company business or anger the fighter. He put Overeem on blast while comparing him to Rousey.
"Ronda's never cheated, ever," White said. "She's an Olympian. She's a world champion who has not only defended her [expletive] title, but I asked her to go back-to-back and she [expletive] did it. Coming straight off filming two [expletive] movies, a training camp. This girl, the other thing with this girl? She gets the [expletive] flu, gets sick, run down, [expletive] like she's going to die, and she still [expletive] trains through camp.
"I've got a big 6-foot-8 [expletive] musclehead whose rib hurts and won't [expletive] fight dos Santos. This chick does two movies back-to-back, fights, comes back in [expletive] camp, films 'The Ultimate Fighter,' [expletive] does all these appearances and all this other [expletive]. She's a [expletive] rock star. She's never cheated. She's done all these great things. She's an Olympian and she has to answer questions about Cyborg [expletive] Santos?"
That led to White saying he hoped that athletic commissions would ban the use of testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) among fighters. White said he has been "pushing like crazy" for commissions to ban it.
He sloughed off a question from Yahoo Sports next. Why, I asked, did he not put a clause in every UFC fighter contract that banned TRT and thus go above and beyond what the commissions require.
He said it was the commissions' jobs and resorted to his line that "we're regulated by the government."
I've long argued with White that that stance is naïve, at best. Post-fight drug testing done by athletic commissions is the simplest to beat. Lance Armstrong was tested on an almost daily basis for years, and didn't fail a test even though he later admitted using PEDs because he knew when the tests were coming.
Many PED experts have said that only a fool fails a drug test when he or she knows it's coming.
White didn't react. He blasted Overeem again and asked if anyone in the room felt Justino was clean.
"What's going to happen with Cyborg?" he said in an aggressive and agitated manner. "I want one person in this room to tell me they think she's [expletive] clean. Who? Who? Who here thinks she's clean?"
When no hands went up, White said, "Yeah, I didn't think so."
Justino failed a post-fight drug test after a Dec. 17, 2011, card in California. But Yahoo Sports then said to White, "There are a lot of other people who are in the UFC who aren't clean, either."
White: Guess what happens? You get [expletive] caught when you're not clean.
Me: Some, not all.
White: Who hasn't gotten caught in the UFC that's taking drugs?
Me: I think there are a lot of them.
White: There are a lot of athletes everywhere, but who in the UFC hasn't got caught? Give me names. I'll test them today.
White then laid out his challenge for 10 names. I've spoken with him about PED usage in the fight game for years, on the record in front of other reporters and in private, both in person and on the phone.
I believe that he and UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta are committed to catching PED users. But I told White his stance that "we're tested by the government," is laughable to anyone who knows the intricacies of steroid usage and the limitations of testing.
He has a bully pulpit and is far more known and popular than any fighter he employs. In a perfect world, the UFC would implement its own testing program that would randomly test fighters in an attempt to root out steroid usage.
But if White was as passionate and as loud as he was Thursday at urging state athletic commissions to toughen PED regulations, it would make a massive difference.
I asked White if he knew how many times Armstrong had been tested, and passed.
"That's not the point here," he said.
The conversation went on, and White admitted he wanted PEDs out of the sport. He said he would make efforts and voiced his support to rid the UFC of them.
This day, though, was about much more than White's stance on PED usage. This was a window into who Dana White is: A street kid who made it, a tough guy who still has the courage of his conviction.
In addition to running the UFC, White is a high-rolling gambler who has won more than $5 million in one setting playing blackjack.
When he got into a dispute with management of the Palms casino in Las Vegas because his credit line was cut, he quit gambling there. Waitresses and restaurant staff were irate because many of them said White left them massive tips.
White said Thursday his feud with the Palms is over and said he may bring UFC fights back there. He then said the Palms management did an employee survey.
The No. 1 employee request?
"Bring back Dana White," White said, laughing.
And that's Dana White. He's loud, he's aggressive, he's passionate, he's generous and he's completely fixated on making the UFC the greatest spectator sport in the world.
He may never reach those heights, but literally, he'll die trying.
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