The UFC president sat surrounded by the typical video cameras, audio recorders and eager reporters who wait to write down his quotes. As is the norm with Dana White's pre-fight media scrum, he controlled the floor.
White touched on all points asked by the surrounding crowd, giving his typical we'll-see-what-happens response and, of course, his take on the great (silly?) Floyd-Mayweather-versus-Ronda-Rousey debate.
It's during this time that White reels off comments that get picked up by everyone that covers mixed martial arts. He talks fights, but he also talks about who's not fighting, which is what White said UFC lightweight Nate Diaz is doing.
“You don't want to fight? OK, don't fight,” White said on Thursday in Las Vegas. “Nate Diaz doesn't look he'll be fighting any time soon.”
White repeated that Diaz has been offered bouts in the Octagon, but the fighter has repeatedly told the executive that he's not interested. The rejections strike White as indications that the fighter doesn't want to fight at all.
Nate's manager, Mike Kogan, refuted White's claim that his client isn't interested in fighting.
“We asked for Brown; he said it makes no sense. But to me what he said makes no sense,” Kogan told MMAWeekly.com, in response to White's comments. “I can't match-make, but don't say we don't want to fight. [We] just don't want to fight people they want us to fight.”
The UFC recently took Diaz off the official 155-pound rankings due to inactivity. The removal from the list struck most as an emotional reaction to Diaz and his public criticisms of the UFC and its contract with him.
White defended his position and proclaimed that Diaz's removal from the rankings was not done in retribution. Contrarily, the UFC boss said he likes Diaz, but he won't allow a fighter who has lost two of his last three fights to jump over other fighters on the roster.
“I don't dislike Nate Diaz. Never have. I can't see a situation where I ever will,” White said. “It's just the guy doesn't want to fight. How's it any skin off my back if he doesn't want a fight? It doesn't matter. We got tons of guys that do want to fight. When Nate Diaz is ready to fight, he'll let me know.
“You won one fight in your last three fights. You don't just jump in and take a title shot, especially with all these guys. I know the Diaz brothers are fun. I like watching them fight too. I like all the same things you and the fans like about the Diaz brothers, but they can't just jump in whenever they want to and jump over all these other guys that are active all the time.”
Kogan called shenanigans.
The manager pointed to several moments in the past where fighters were given opportunities in big money UFC fights, regardless of where they were in the official ranking system.
With the inconsistency the UFC has shown in previous matchmaking, Kogan doesn't see why Diaz shouldn't be offered a fight the caliber of Brown, for instance.
“Nate was ranked fifth in the world well before he got taken off, but that doesn't change anything,” Kogan exclaimed. “There are too many fights that get made that make no sense at all, but they still get made and sold to the fans. Why not this one? You telling me fans don't want see Nate versus Brown?
“[Anthony] Johnson just went from being on WSOF to ranked fifth. Skipped a bunch wouldn't you say? Chael [Sonnen] jumped over the whole top 10 at 205 right into a title fight. [Josh] Thomson wasn't ranked, fights Nate and gets ranked fourth, and is 2-2 in his last four fights. Should I keep going?”
Kogan added that the rankings do little beyond adding flavor to broadcasts, and those “on the in” shouldn't put too much stock into them.
White established the ranking system so the media could place fighters where they feel they should be ranked in the UFC, a process that the president has hammered reporters about time and time again. And no matter where reporters rank fighters, White has made it clear that he and UFC matchmakers will pair who they feel works best for the promotion.
In the end, it appears White will decide where Diaz will land for his next fight, and not the other way around. Diaz may want to pick his fights, but White will remain perched on his media scrum stage, taking each of the fighter's rejections as a desire not to compete.
As Kogan explained, the control is all White's.
“It's their world and we just live in it,” he said.
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