UFC president Dana White said last week he believes there are probably several gay fighters among the ranks of the more than 300 the company has under contract and added that he wishes at least one of them came out of the closet and identified himself.
White strongly defended his human rights record against attacks from the Culinary Workers Union, which attempted to paint him as anti-gay. The culinary union has been engaged in a battle with White and the UFC for several years, largely because the casinos in Las Vegas owned by UFC co-owners Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta are non-union.
The union, which so far has been successful in lobbying the New York legislature to block the UFC's attempt to get mixed martial arts legalized in the state, has created websites and written letters to UFC advertisers, painting it as unfit for children and anti-gay.
White said he is not anti-gay and said he regretted using a crude word to describe a homosexual in a 2009 rant against a female reporter who had angered him.
"If you guys look at all of the things I've said over the last 10 years, some of it is stupid, some of it is whatever, but that's the one that bothers me," White said of the use of the slur in 2009. "It's the only one that bothers me, the fact that these losers from the culinary union can go out and say I'm a homophobe and things like that. That's the furthest thing from the truth.
"Enough of you here know me that if I was, I'd tell you I was and I'd tell you why I was. You know what I mean? It's not true and it's something that these guys can throw up on a cute little website."
Geoconda Arguello-Kline, president of Culinary Workers Union, Local 226, is one of five people who signed an Oct. 13 letter to Luiz Fernando Edmond of Anheuser-Busch outlining what it said is anti-gay behavior by White and others in the UFC.
The letter also was signed by Cleve Jones, community and political coordinator of United HERE; Derek Washington, chairman of the Stonewall Democratic Club of Southern Nevada; Howard Watts II, co-chair of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network of Southern Nevada; and Laura Martin, organizer of the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada.
In the letter to Edmond, they wrote, "People associated with this professional sports organization have a history of tolerating homophobic conduct that is hostile to millions of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people all over the world who struggle every day against bigotry and discrimination."
White said he disagreed with comments that UFC heavyweight Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira made, in which Nogueira said he wouldn't want to train with a gay fighter. White said it is impossible to police 300-plus fighters and every word they say.
"I'll tell what, if there's a gay fighter in the UFC, I wish he would come out," White said. "I could care less if there's a gay fighter in the UFC. There probably is and there's probably more than one. It's 2012. Give me a break."
White said he agreed that some fighters have made off-the-wall comments. Referencing former light heavyweight champion Quinton "Rampage" Jackson and current welterweight contender Nick Diaz, White said, "’Rampage’ is a nut, yeah. Dude, Nick Diaz is a nut. We've got some guys who are nutty."
[Related: B.J. Penn backs off his retirement talk ]
But he said the overwhelming majority of UFC fighters are good people who do a lot for the communities they live in.
"We're all human beings [and] we all make mistakes sometimes," White said. "It doesn't mean that the UFC is bad and we're unfit for children. I'll tell you what: Out of the 375 guys, we've got a few lunatics, you know, some guys that are nutty. Then we got 300-and-some who are incredible, awesome human beings who are inspirational to kids and adults and whoever else is a human being."
• When Georges St. Pierre-Nick Diaz was announced for the welterweight title at UFC 137, I thought it would be an easy fight for St. Pierre. But after watching Diaz manhandle Penn, I'm not so sure. I think St. Pierre's wrestling will ultimately be the difference when they meet Feb. 4, 2012, in Las Vegas in what could become the biggest fight in UFC history, but I no longer think the fight is a one-sided affair, nor would I be shocked if Diaz won.
• Diaz isn't a member of the Yahoo! Sports MMA top 10, but if he's not when the next rankings come out, something is wrong.
• I love what lightweight Donald Cerrone is doing. He's one of the UFC's most improved fighters and at 4-0 in 2011 with a Dec. 31 bout against Nathan Diaz remaining, is a serious candidate for the mythical Fighter of the Year award. But this talk of dropping to featherweight to fight Nam Phan because Phan allegedly made unflattering comments about Leonard Garcia is ridiculous. Garcia, who is Cerrone's best friend, is a big boy and can take care of himself. And by Cerrone jumping to Garcia's aid all the time – he also has made similar threats to Garcia rival Cole Miller – it only serves to diminish Garcia. It makes him seem as if he's not tough enough to fight his own battles.
• I was shocked by how poor Matt Mitrione looked against Cheick Kongo on Saturday. Mitrione seemed one-dimensional and fearful of Kongo's power. I had viewed Mitrione as a star on the rise, but I'm going to have to rethink that stance after that effort.
• The promotion the UFC was getting Sunday during Fox's NFL broadcasts is yet another example of why the deal is so important. Expect the UFC to have a huge growth spurt in the second half of 2012 after a couple of events have appeared on Fox.
• I didn't disagree with the judges who gave Bellator champion Ben Askren the decision in his title bout with Jay Hieron on Saturday. The fight was close, but Askren did enough to win.
With all the drama between Georges St. Pierre and Nick Diaz going on, do you think it might be a better idea for the UFC to hold that fight off a little bit, and make them coaches for the first season of “The Ultimate Fighte” on FX? The UFC needs to make the first year with the Fox networks big, and what would be better than watching these two go back and forth? Obviously, Diaz is the first fighter ever to get under GSP's skin, and Diaz would already be irritable with being in that much of a spotlight that this could be huge. I'd love your thoughts on that idea.
I think the fight is already big enough that they don't need to put it on “TUF,” Adam. They have plenty of potential coaching candidates to make the first season of TUF on Fx big, but the fans are all of a sudden desperate for the GSP-Diaz fight. Rare is the bout that even approaches, let alone exceeds, 1 million in pay-per-view sales, but a card with GSP and Diaz at the top might be one to do it.
Kevin, I am really surprised that you are buying into Nick Diaz. Do you really think this sport needs someone like him to be the new face of MMA, given his conduct in and out of the cage? His thuggish behavior and display of ignorance is appalling. Sure, he just hyped his fight up with GSP for Super Bowl weekend and he'll be a superstar until then. But do you think he stands a chance against GSP? Consider the talent pool these guys have been fighting in. And remember, superstars land big endorsement deals. Name a brand that would sign Nick that is not a fight brand?
Show me where I ever "bought into" Nick Diaz? I simply said that he's a compelling and divisive figure and fans are intrigued by him. Many fans love him. When White yanked him out of the main event against St. Pierre in September for missing two news conferences, many complained about that decision. But there are just as many, if not more, who will be rooting for St. Pierre to destroy him. When a fighter can tap into fan emotion that way, he's going to be a big seller. I never endorsed him in any way other than by saying he's a great fighter. And if you don't believe he's a great fighter after watching him against Penn, well, I'm not sure where this discussion will go. Does he beat St. Pierre? I doubt it, but I don't totally discount him.
"I'm not happy with my performance at all. I wasn't 100 percent today. I felt good, but just leading up to this fight, I went through a lot of hard times." – Nick Diaz, on his one-sided victory Saturday at UFC 137 over B.J. Penn.
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- Dana White
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