OKLAHOMA CITY – UFC president Dana White was as caught up in Wednesday night's Ultimate Fight Night 19 preliminary matches as anyone in the stands at the Cox Convention Center.
He rose with the crowd as upstart Jay Silva nearly took out C.B. Dolloway in the second round, and kept yelling as Silva appeared to fritter the fight away on the ground in the third.
"He's got to stand it up," White yelled. "What is he doing? He's got to stand up and finish him. He's got to finish the fight or he's not going to win this thing."
Wednesday night's card was the beginning of one of the most hectic weeks the UFC has ever promoted. One might think the company president would have too much on his plate to spend time watching the prelims, but White had none of it.
"This is how I like it," said White. "No time for a rest. Wouldn't have it any other way."
Ultimate Fight Night 19 was the lead-in to the debut of the 10th season of The Ultimate Fighter on Spike TV. While reality shows tend to have a shelf life, White says he isn't worried about The Ultimate Fighter's longevity because he views it as a fight series as much as he does a reality show.
"You remember the old Tuesday Night Fights series on USA? I used to watch that every [expletive] Tuesday. I'm a fight fan, and I know they were going to give me a fight I wanted to watch every week. I look at The Ultimate Fighter the same way. To an extent each season depends on the personalities of the coaches and how they click with the fighters, but in the end, you turn on The Ultimate Fighter every week and you're going to get a fight. How can you not like that as a fan?"
TUF 10 is one of the most hyped in recent memory, with the notorious Kimbo Slice joining an all-heavyweight ensemble that includes several former NFL players. The UFC president sees potential for this season to do for the heavyweight division what season five did for the lightweights, which added tremendous depth to the division, including the likes of Nate Diaz, Gray Maynard, and Joe Lauzon.
"We already have a great heavyweight division," said White. "But just like with season five, you look at all the talent that came in here, the guys who make their name on the show, and you come out of it with a division which you won't believe. There are some guys who are going to surprise people."
This season figures to ride in large part on the coaches, former light heavyweight champions Rashad Evans and Quinton "Rampage" Jackson. But Jackson won't be ready for the traditional TUF coaches fight, as he is taking a lead role in "The A Team" movie.
Between rounds two and three of Dolloway-Silva, White contrasted Jackson's decision with that of Roger Huerta, who finished his contract on Wednesday and will pursue acting full time.
"'Rampage' and I aren't talking now," said White, who says he is working on lining up a make-up date for the fight. "There's a difference between what 'Rampage' and Roger are doing. We're on good terms with Roger. Things are cool. He let us know his intentions and he's fighting his fight tonight. The timing with Rampage is different. You just don't do it like this. We're not talking right now."
But White doesn't have much time to dwell on the matter. After Wednesday's festivities, the UFC chartered several buses to whisk the crew down to Dallas. There, the company undergoes the work of pushing Saturday's UFC 103. The main event of Rich Franklin vs. Vitor Belfort goes head-to-head on pay-per-view with the big Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Juan Manuel Marquez boxing match in Las Vegas.
White said he isn't worried about holding up his end of the bargain in the biggest straight-up showdown between the sports in several years.
"Look, Floyd Mayweather is the best boxer in the world," White said. "But he's going to bring in that 'Dancing With The Stars' [expletive]. Who wants to see that? Who wants to see him even fight that guy? There's a fight out there everyone wants to see, Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao, which is a fight I want to see. You can turn on the other show if you want to watch two guys dance, but if you're a fight fan, UFC 103 is the card you want to see."
Dolloway-Silva ended, and White found himself back in the moment. White's previous assessment of the fight was on the money, as Dolloway looked like he had been hit by a truck, but his ground tactics enabled him to take a straight 29-28 decision. Silva came over to his corner and shot the boss a quizzical look.
"Great fight, kid," White told Silva. "Way to give them a show."