Dana White escalates feud with Oscar De La Hoya: 'He’s a liar and a phony'

Combat columnist
Yahoo Sports
Dana White (R) had some harsh words for Oscar De La Hoya after the Golden Boy founder threw him and the UFC under the bus for allegedly underpaying fighters. (Getty Images)
Dana White (R) had some harsh words for Oscar De La Hoya after the Golden Boy founder threw him and the UFC under the bus for allegedly underpaying fighters. (Getty Images)

The percolating feud between UFC president Dana White and Golden Boy Promotions CEO Oscar De La Hoya boiled over on Wednesday when White went hard after the boxing Hall of Famer.

White reached out to Yahoo Sports on Wednesday to point out what he said were numerous inaccuracies in comments that De La Hoya has made about him recently, including some on ESPN’s “First Take” with Stephen A. Smith.

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De La Hoya has chastised White for not paying his fighters enough and said he will promote another MMA show because so many UFC fighters are approaching him saying they’re underpaid.

White, who has called De La Hoya a “cokehead” and “Oscar De La Weirdo” in recent weeks, was upset that Golden Boy put 48-year-old Chuck Liddell into a fight on Nov. 24 against Tito Ortiz. Liddell retired in 2010 at White’s urging after having been knocked out three times in a row and in five of his last six fights.

He came back to fight Ortiz and was knocked out in the first round on a De La Hoya-promoted show last month that White said sold around 20,000 on pay-per-view. Without providing detail, De La Hoya said it did much better.

That began the back-and-forth, but White took it to another level on Wednesday.

“The guy wants to act like he’s my competitor [promoting MMA],” White told Yahoo Sports. “I have a real business that I’ve built over the last 18 years. A real business, and I can hit you with numbers for days about [how successful it is]. How much has Oscar De La Hoya reinvested into the sport of boxing? We’ve reinvested millions and millions of dollars and we continue to do it every day. The list goes on and on.

“The guy wants to come out and tell lies and say things that make no sense when he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. He knows nothing about this sport. He doesn’t know the [expletive] guys’ names who are fighting on his card. He’s a liar. He’s a phony and God help anybody who wants to go fight for Golden Boy. These fighters are grown men and women. All they have to do is take one meeting with Oscar De La Hoya and they’ll see what he knows about MMA, which is absolutely [expletive] nothing.”

De La Hoya and Ortiz both declined comment when reached by Yahoo Sports. Yahoo Sports also made several efforts to reach Liddell but he was unable to comment.

De La Hoya was on “First Take” on Tuesday to promote middleweight champion Canelo Alvarez’s bout on Saturday at Madison Square Garden for a super middleweight title against Rocky Fielding.

He then said fighters were coming up to him and complaining about their pay, which prompted him to promote Liddell-Ortiz III. The bout was heavily criticized because of Liddell’s age, inactivity and long history of being knocked out.

“First of all, what I said [was] not about [White] personally,” De La Hoya said on “First Take” on Tuesday. “[It was] just about the business [and] about how fighters are coming up to me and saying, ‘Look, we don’t get paid enough. The UFC just sold for $4 billion, we’re here struggling trying to make ends meet [and] fighting in a world title fight that does a million homes and I only get paid $50,000.’”

White categorically denied that assertion and said there has never been a UFC championship fight that sold 1 million or more on pay-per-view where a fighter made just $50,000.

White was particularly incensed at comments De La Hoya made about how much the UFC paid Ortiz and Liddell for their UFC fights.

White said that beginning with UFC 52 on April 16, 2005, when Liddell knocked out Randy Couture to win the light heavyweight title, Liddell never made less than $1 million in a UFC fight. Including UFC 52, he fought 11 times for the UFC from that point forward.

White said that in Liddell’s final three UFC fights — knockout losses to Rashad Evans in 2008, Mauricio “Shogun” Rua in 2009 and Rich Franklin in 2010 — he made a minimum of $2.7 million each fight. Ortiz, according to White, averaged $1.7 million for his last three fights, losses to Rashad Evans, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Forrest Griffin.

White added that the UFC has paid Liddell every year since he retired, making salary, appearance fee and royalty payments despite the fact his last UFC fight was June 12, 2010.

According to White, Liddell made $2,742,716 from the UFC from 2011 through today, a period when he did not fight for the company. By year, he made $391,115 in 2011; $409,479 in 2012; $360,362 in 2013; $358,501 in 2014; $368,284 in 2015; $421,836 in 2016; $418,562 in 2017 and $14,577 this year. White said the UFC did not pay Liddell a salary this year, only appearance and royalty money.

De La Hoya “said, ‘Chuck Liddell made $200,000 when he fought Tito Ortiz and that pay-per-view did 1.5 million homes. Who kept the rest of the money?’” White said. “Well, let me set the record straight. UFC 47 was on April 2, 2004, and that was the first time Chuck and Tito fought. That pay-per-view did 106,000 buys. At UFC 66, on Dec. 30, 2006, when they fought for the second time, it did 929,000 buys.

“When Chuck fought the second time, he made $2.882 million and Tito made $2.081 million. Those are the facts, so Oscar is lying again.”

White said that since 2001 when he became part of the UFC’s ownership, the company has promoted nine shows that did 1 million or more pay-per-view sales. He said the total athlete compensation for those fights was $133 million. Breaking it down, $84 million went to main event fighters; $27.4 million to co-main event fighters and $21.6 million for the rest of the fighters on those cards.

California State Athletic Commission records show Liddell made $250,000 and Ortiz $200,000 for the Nov. 24 bout promoted by De La Hoya. In an interview with TSN’s Aaron Bronsteter, De La Hoya implied they made much more, telling Bronsteter that the digital sales were far higher than the linear (television) sales.

For nearly every promoter, digital sales are still a small fraction of the linear sales. At the UFC’s biggest pay-per-view ever, UFC 229 on Oct. 6 featuring Khabib Nurmagomedov’s and Conor McGregor’s lightweight title fight which sold over 2.4 million on pay-per-view, White said the digital sales were slightly less than 30 percent of the linear sales.

White also made an impassioned point of noting that Gleison Tibau fought for the UFC in June and for De La Hoya in November. Tibau was contracted to make $50,000 to show and another $50,000 to win for a June 1 UFC bout in Utica, New York, against Desmond Green. Tibau lost, so he made $50,000. Tibau was contracted to make $10,000 to show and another $10,000 if he won on De La Hoya’s show. He won so he made $20,000 by beating Efrain Escudero on Nov. 24.

“He says he pays more and that fighters should go with him [because of it],” White said. “Tibau wasn’t going to sell tickets or pay-per-views, and I paid him 50 and 50 and [De La Hoya] paid 10 and 10. It doesn’t matter if he won or lost. It’s what he had the opportunity to make. That’s apples to apples.”

White and Liddell are long-time friends and White is Liddell’s former manager. White said Liddell told him, “This was the most unprofessional and disorganized group of people I ever worked with. I guess I was spoiled because I was with the UFC for most of my career and got used to how it was done over there.”

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