PORTLAND, Ore. – Dana White, the Ultimate Fighting Championship's outspoken president, made a vigorous defense of Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick on Thursday following a news conference to promote UFC 102.
Asked about fighter Chris Leben, who is returning from a steroids suspension to fight on Saturday's card at the Rose Garden, White took the opportunity to passionately defend Vick, who returned to the NFL after serving 18 months of a 23-month sentence in prison for crimes involving dogfighting while he was with the Atlanta Falcons.
"I hope Michael Vick wins the Super Bowl, makes $3 billion and is the greatest comeback story in the history of sports, man," White said. "When are they going to stop crucifying this [expletive] guy?
"This guy went to jail, OK? He went to jail. He lost all his money. What he did was terrible. The whole dog thing was terrible, but do you want to talk about a guy who has paid his [expletive] dues? Then he comes back and the NFL puts a suspension on him, too, after he gets out of jail.
"I think the guy has taken it on the chin like a man. You haven't seen him bitch about it. … He walks out of bankruptcy court this morning, because he has to pay creditors back $20 [expletive] million and he walks out smiling and he's going to play tonight."
White said he felt anyone who committed a crime or any athlete who violated a league or athletic commission policy deserved to be punished. However, he said he has sympathy for the difficulties people go through after serving their penalties.
So he said he sees no reason why he should punish a fighter further once he returns from a commission-imposed steroids penalty. And he said society should be more sympathetic toward Vick.
He cited inequities in the penalties faced by Cleveland Browns receiver Donte' Stallworth, who served 24 days in jail after a man he struck while driving drunk died and the penalty Vick was handed for his role in killing dogs.
"He's more than paid his dues," White said. "There's some football player who just killed somebody drinking and driving. He got 28 [expletive] days. He killed a human being. He got 28 days and the league suspended him for a year. What the [expletive]? Are you kidding me? Pretty crazy."
White said he admires the way Vick has handled himself under immense pressure since being released from jail and is rooting for Vick to win "nine Super Bowl rings."
"In regulated sports, or in society, you have to pay your dues," White said. "You get in trouble, whatever society says you have to do, you have to do. Once you have paid that debt to society, leave me the [expletive] alone. Let me get back and do my thing. I have never seen anything as cruel."
PENN vs. SANCHEZ: White said that B.J. Penn will defend his lightweight championship against Diego Sanchez, but said it won't be the main event of UFC 105 that is scheduled to air live on Spike TV on Nov. 14 from Manchester, England.
He said he wants to put the fight on another card he's still working on. He said he won't counterprogram Strikeforce's card, which will feature heavyweight Fedor Emelianenko against Brett Rogers, with a live show of his own, but said he plans to add a live card in November.
That will give the UFC three live shows in November. UFC 105 is Nov. 14 in Manchester and UFC 106, featuring a heavyweight title fight between Brock Lesnar and Shane Carwin, is Nov. 21 in Las Vegas.
"It's Penn-Sanchez, but I don't know where yet," White said. "We're working on a deal right now. That fight might end up somewhere else. It definitely won't be in Manchester. I'm working my [expletive] off right now [to get a main event]."
VIDEO BLOGS ON HOLD: White said he decided to quit doing video blogs, which he said were a great marketing tool, because he felt badly that he is so successful and was hearing from others with serious life issues.
"Something weird happened to me during the blogging and I just feel that me doing the blogs is not a good thing," White said. "It's not the right time, with what's going on in the world right now, to be doing the blogs. Let me put it this way: I've been very fortunate and I have a very fortunate life. My life is pretty crazy. Other people aren't that fortunate. I started getting some pretty crazy letters from people, anywhere from talking about losing their homes to a guy who wrote me a letter talking about what a home means.
"What a home means is that it's a safe place for you and your family and this guy was losing his house. It just [expletive] me up. It really did. We had this video blog of me jumping on airplanes and doing this crazy [expletive] and I just don't think it's the right time for me to be doing video blogs and for people to see the life that I live."
UFC-WEC MERGER? White hinted that there may be a merger between the UFC and the World Extreme Cagefighting organization that Zuffa also owns. The WEC features fighters at 135, 145 and 155 pounds and is going to add a 125-pound class soon.
White said he has a new television deal with the cable channel Versus, which hosts WEC fights. Spike has an exclusive deal to air UFC fights on cable, but White said that's not a reason preventing a merger.
He said he agrees with those who advocate a merger. "When people ask me that question, I don't disagree," he said. "It makes some sense. We're trying to figure some stuff out right now. Obviously, not only Versus, but Comcast [which owns Versus] has been a great partner for us."
In relation to the possibility of whether Spike's exclusivity deal would get in the way of a merger, he said, "There are obviously some things that need to be worked out, but we can figure this thing out. We've had bigger problems."
NO SILVA-GSP SUPERFIGHT: White scuttled thoughts about a potential superfight between welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre and middleweight champion Anderson Silva that many were hoping would be made.
Silva's first-round knockout of Forrest Griffin in a light heavyweight bout earlier in the month convinced White of the folly of a Silva-St. Pierre match. Silva can easily fight at 205 pounds and has made noises about fighting at heavyweight. St. Pierre only walks around between 185 and 190.
"He's too big for Georges," White said.
White said St. Pierre probably won't return until February, or perhaps even March, as a result of the groin injury he suffered at UFC 100.
NEW LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT: The UFC signed 11-1 light heavyweight Jared Hamman to a four-fight contract, manager Nima Safapour said Thursday. He's finished every one of his victories and his only loss came via flying knee just 15 seconds into a fight.
He has fought for Elite XC, the International Fight League and Strikeforce. He is a teammate of veteran Vladimir Matyushenko, who recently signed with the UFC.
NO PROBLEM WITH STRIKEFORCE: White said he has no problem with Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker or any of his staff. He said his anger is directed at Showtime. Though he didn't mention him by name, he appeared to be referring to Ken Hershman, the network's vice president of sports programming. He said he wouldn't counterprogram Strikeforce's Fedor Emelianenko-Brett Rogers card with a live card of his own because "I can beat Strikeforce with a card we've aired 790,000 times."