UFC 276: Dana White 1-on-1 with Kevin Iole

Yahoo Sports' Kevin Iole goes 1-on-1 with Dana White to hear the UFC president's thoughts on Saturday's stacked UFC 276 featuring the middleweight title bout between champion Israel Adesanya and Jared Cannonier. White previews that potentially explosive main event, the co-main event between featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski and Max Holloway and who he'd like to see next for UFC Vegas 57 winner Mateusz Gamrot.

Video Transcript

KEVIN IOLE: Hey, everybody. I am Kevin Iole. Welcome to Yahoo Sports. Saturday night is the big night-- UFC 276, a loaded card with two title fights-- Sean O'Malley. A ton of good fights on this card. But I'll tell you what, Dana White. I think this card has a lot to live up to because UFC 275, UFC Austin-- you've been on a roll with some great fight cards. But on paper, this looks like a good one.

DANA WHITE: Yeah, it's true. I mean, if you think back to-- you got London, Singapore, Austin. This last weekend, I mean, just been unbelievable cards top to bottom. So I mean, on paper, this card is ridiculous. From the-- I was just saying, if you don't know, now you know. If you don't know this weekend, you literally don't follow the sport at all, OK?

KEVIN IOLE: Yeah, you don't need to do this one.

DANA WHITE: But the other great thing about this week-- obviously, International Fight Week is awesome for us, for the brand, for the fighters, for the city. And this thing is simulcast on ESPN+, ESPN the network, and ABC. So very big weekend for the fighters.

KEVIN IOLE: Before I get into asking you about the fights, I just want to ask you about the relationship with the convention authority in the city of Las Vegas and how that came about that you have this week because I remember covering boxing for years. And it was always July and August were dead months, and you can't do anything in Las Vegas in July and August. And obviously, you've turned this into a huge week in Las Vegas. Can you talk about the partnership that you have with the Convention Authority and how this has evolved into what it is?

DANA WHITE: Yeah, it's been a 10-year deal. We've been growing this thing over the last 10 years. But we wanted to build a week in Las Vegas where you celebrate everything fighting. So we got legends from the past coming in, stars from the present, pool parties, signings, all kinds of other cool stuff, and other events going on this week. So we've been growing this thing over the last 10 years, and it's been fun. We've had a blast doing it.

KEVIN IOLE: Do you know-- and this is probably an LVCVA question-- Las Vegas Convention Authority question-- but I wonder if you know in other words what the benefit is to them because, obviously, they've kept this partnership up, right? And are they getting a lot more people into Las Vegas than otherwise would be here because of that?

DANA WHITE: Well, the city's booming anyway right now since COVID-- since coming back from COVID. But what this thing is designed to do is not just to get people in town but to get people doing things and going to-- whether we're doing something at a pool party or we're doing something and one of the restaurants or convention space, at certain hotels or bars, or whatever it might be. So it's to get people into all these different businesses in Vegas.

KEVIN IOLE: That's awesome. So you're basically partnering with all the casinos in town as well as the city itself. So that's--


KEVIN IOLE: Yeah, that's really cool to see. Let's talk about the fight card, and I guess I'd be remiss to not start with the co-main event because Alex Volkanovski, the featherweight champ, and Max Holloway have had two incredible fights already. They are fighting for the Featherweight Championship in-- I can't say a rubber match because Volkanovski is 2 and 0. But this-- both of their first two fights have been outstanding. They do think any-- after two times, do you see any changes? Like, do you think, tactically, they'll change the way they fought, given they've been in there with each other for 10 rounds?

DANA WHITE: And that's why this is kind of unheard of in the fight business once a guy is up two fights, it's kind of a wrap. But these fights have been so razor-thin close and so competitive. People want to see it again. And what's crazy is for all the things that Alexander has done in his career as a champion, he still has to get this Holloway monkey off his back. You know what I mean?

And for Holloway, you know, he wants to prove that those fights were close and that maybe he did win those fights. So it's a very unique situation.

KEVIN IOLE: You know, when Max beat-- I guess it was José Aldo-- people started calling him the greatest feather-- I know Joe Rogan did-- the greatest featherweight of all time, right? So now he's lost these two fights. Even though they were close, he's lost these two fights. Volkanovski hasn't had that, right? For a while, it was José Aldo had that designation. Some people at one point thought maybe Conor, although he didn't keep the title long enough.

And then you have Holloway. Do you think, finally, Volkanovski, if he wins this, will get the respect from people? Because it seems like for one of the great fighters in the world, Volkanovski doesn't get the kind of respect maybe that he should among the public.

DANA WHITE: It's so true. And it's why this fight has to happen again. He needs to do this again. Then the world is wide open to this kid. I mean, he could move to 55. He could stay here and just keep fighting guys here and blow the record out. But this is a fight that has to happen, which is, like I said, very unique in this business, when you have a guy who's already won twice.

KEVIN IOLE: Yeah, and the last thing about that fight that I think is interesting is-- I'll go back to his last fight, which was at UFC 268, I think it was, when he fought Brian Ortega. And he was in that submission. That was unbelievably deep, right? And there was a lot of time left in the round, and he got out of it. And I think if anybody was gonna stop doubting Volkanovski would have been after that, after Ortega had him and that kind of thing, and he made it to the end.

But he still has to go. But can you recall your reaction, Dana, at that point, when you saw Ortega had it? I mean, it seemed like a pretty clear Volkanovski win up until he slapped that choke on it. Then all of a sudden, it looks like history is gonna change.

DANA WHITE: 100%. I mean, when Brian Ortega gets you in a submission, that's a wrap. You're done. The fact that he got out of that thing is incredible and just another testament to how good this kid really is.

KEVIN IOLE: Yeah. Now Israel Adesanya is gonna defend his middleweight title in the main event against Jared Cannonier. Cannonier is 5 and 1 in his last six. And I talked to him the other day. And, you know, it's amazing when you look at Cannonier's record. He has fought-- I think it's four or five former UFC champions and one interim champion on his resume-- Anderson Silva, Glover Teixeira, Gastelum I know is an interim champion, Blachowicz.

You know, he's had something. Do you believe that that experience that he's had with all those former champions gives him any kind of an advantage going into Adesanya because now he doesn't have any surprises? He knows what to expect from these elite level fighters?

DANA WHITE: That's a good question. But I think that obviously plays into it. But I also believe that styles make fights. And if you look at these two, both guys are knockout artists. Both guys have huge power. People don't-- for some reason, people don't give Adesanya the credit for the knockouts. This guy's got 15 wins by knockout. Cannonier has got 10 wins by knockout.

Both guys have been criticized about their wrestling. You know, Cannonier has worked on his wrestling over the last couple of years. Stylistically, I see this as a gunfight, man. I think these two are gonna come in and start blasting each other. And this should be a very fun main event. And coming off without a sign, you know, he's lately, he loves the belt and what it's done for him. It's obviously made him money and lots of other things.

He's looking for highlights now. He wants to just start finishing people with incredible finishes. So it's got incredible written all over it.

KEVIN IOLE: Yeah, I was asking Izzy about-- the other day about the fight itself and everything. He says, I don't care about anything else. I wanna just bleep him up, right? And that was this thing, you know. He wants to just mess him up. And I think that would go counter to his counterpunching nature, right? But--


KEVIN IOLE: I mean, that might be fun if he takes the attitude he's looking for a finish.

DANA WHITE: I agree. And so this should be an absolute gunfight. I don't see either guy coming in and trying to wrestle or get this thing to the ground. I see a gunfight coming. And then you look at the fight earlier on the card with Strickland Pereira.


DANA WHITE: If Pereira can win this fight, puts him, in a very fun fight with great storyline against Adesanya.

KEVIN IOLE: Yeah, no. For people who don't know, Alex Pereira knocked out Adesanya-- brutally knocked him out. I mean, it was not an easy knockout in a kickboxing fight a while back. So he's fighting Sean Strickland. So let's talk about that fight because I wanted to go to O'Malley next because I think O'Malley and Munhoz is good. But let's talk about Strickland and-- I mean, I think Stickland has--

DANA WHITE: Yeah, I mean, if we're talking about Adesanya, we gotta talk about that fight, right?

KEVIN IOLE: Right. I mean, that's a big fight there. What is your take then on Pereira? He's a guy that came in with a reputation but not a lot of MMA experience. But he seems to have really made a lot of progress in a short period of time.

DANA WHITE: Well, much like Adesanya. I mean, both these guys came from GLORY Kickboxing. Pereira is a former double champion there-- middleweight and light heavyweight. He's got two wins over Israel Adesanya. And, you know, he's got two wins in the UFC right now. So taking on tough, durable, nutty Strickland, which should be a damn good fight. And if he wins, it makes a lot of sense to do the Adesanya fight.

KEVIN IOLE: I think you have on this card-- in the UFC, the fighters are matched so evenly. You can't go in there and say, hey, I'm gonna play all unders and all win by knockouts. But I think on this one, you have the potential-- and a lot of the fights on this-- hey, they could go along, but you also have, really, potential, some knockouts.

You mentioned Cannonier and Adesanya. Well, I think Strickland and Pereira would be the same way, and even O'Malley and Pedro Munhoz, right? That's another one that you can look at and say, hey, we can have a finish in this.

DANA WHITE: 100%. Obviously, Sean O'Malley is a huge fan favorite, one of the most popular fighters in the sport today. Taking on Pedro Munhoz, which should be an awesome fight, too, and a huge, huge test for O'Malley.

KEVIN IOLE: I was gonna say, you know, now O'Malley fought Chito Vera. And we kind of got cheated out of the fight because O'Malley got hurt, and we didn't get to see the fight play out to its finish. But in my opinion, and I know O'Malley disagrees with this, but I thought Chito Vera was handling him pretty well in that fight. But Munhoz is one of those guys that we talk about flying beneath the radar, a guy that everybody in the sport knows how good he is, but Munoz doesn't have that kind of name recognition than, say, Sean does.

DANA WHITE: Yeah. And for O'Malley, when you think about it. I mean, we were just talking earlier about how nasty every one of these divisions are in the UFC right now, right? Absolute killers in the top 15. So O'Malley wins this fight this weekend. He beats Pedro Munhoz. That breaks him into the top 10. Then you're looking at guys like Song Yadong, Rob Font, Merab, Vera again, Cory Sandhagen. I mean, Aldo.

KEVIN IOLE: We got some good fights on the hook there. It's--


KEVIN IOLE: That is really something else. Now what-- unfortunately, Miesha Tate and Lauren Murphy-- that fight was postponed till July 16 because Lauren had COVID. What fight-- I've heard a couple of different things. What is going to be on the main card in replacement of that fight?

DANA WHITE: Lawler versus Barbarena will open the show.

KEVIN IOLE: So Robbie Lawler has never fought on a prelim card before. And we almost had history on this one, and now he's moving up, huh?

DANA WHITE: Yup. He'll open the pay-per-view now. What better fight-- I mean, other than O'Malley versus Munhoz, how could you open the pay-per-view any better?

KEVIN IOLE: Let me ask you about Barberena. You know, everybody knows about Robbie Lawler, and he's been around forever. I saw him fight in Pride. And so everybody knows about him. Barberena-- I mean, even after that last fight that he had, which was an incredible fight, he's a guy that-- I think he's just maybe not the most talented guy in the world. But he has it in here. And he's a guy that really loves to fight. And when you see him fight, you know, you're gonna see a battle.

DANA WHITE: They are both built and wired exactly the same. They are both war dogs who come forward, take big shots, and try to take your head off. It should be an incredible fight.

KEVIN IOLE: Yeah, no, I don't think there's any doubt of that. And before I move on, I just want to ask you one other fight. And really, I want to ask you about Ian Garry. You know, he used to have a lot of hype. He and Paddy Pimblett came into the UFC around the same time. And both are getting a lot of hype from the European scene. What have you seen about Ian Garry? Are you impressed with him? And his fight with Gabe Green-- how do you see that going?

DANA WHITE: Yeah, I mean, a lot of people expect big things from this kid. And the great thing about this card, like I was telling you earlier, is that I was like, if you don't know, you don't really follow the sport. And because this thing is simulcast on ABC, ESPN, and ESPN+, the viewership that these kids are gonna get this weekend is next level.

So for guys like you know Ian and Gabe, Brad Riddell and Turner, it just-- it's huge. This is the weekend to show up and deliver. This is the weekend to show the world who you are. This is the weekend to showcase yourself to the world. So yeah, I expect all these guys to come in bombing this weekend.

KEVIN IOLE: I always think it's-- obviously, helps your pay-per-view when you have a good prelim card and everything. What impact do you think the ABC aspect does? Because, hey, ESPN has wide distribution. Certainly not as much as ABC, but you've had that with ESPN, and you had it with Fox when you were on Fox. But what does the ABC factor do, do you think, to help you sell pay-per-views?

DANA WHITE: You got people-- it's not even about selling paper. It's more about exposing more people to the sport. You're gonna have people channel surf. I was home last night. I got Cox cable. I still have DirecTV.


DANA WHITE: I got Apple. I got all this other stuff. There's nothing on TV. I sit home flipping through the channels, and not hing.

KEVIN IOLE: You weren't watching the Stanley Cup Final?


KEVIN IOLE: The Stanley Cup Final was on, on ABC.

DANA WHITE: There's nothing on TV. So I'm flipping around. You're gonna have people doing that on Saturday and will land on the UFC and see it for the first time. And these kids have the opportunity to expose themselves to millions and millions of other people that have never seen it before. So time to deliver on Saturday, boys and girls.

KEVIN IOLE: Well, I'm gonna tell you two guys who I thought delivered, and I want to just get your take on the fight if I have a couple more minutes here. Was Mateusz Gamrot and Armand Tsarukyan. I mean, I knew going in-- I was telling people going in, that's gonna be a special fight, right? But I think it even exceeded my expectations. I had Tsarukyan winning at 3-2. I gave Tsarukyan the fourth round. I debated it. I know Gamrot had that submission at the end of the round, but I thought Tsarukyan dropped and landed some big kicks. But curious if your thought on that fight and the show that they put on.

DANA WHITE: Incredible, yeah. I know we expected that and the co-main event to deliver. The whole card was unbelievable. But yeah, the main event was high level, incredible. I mean, just an amazing fight. And you're talking about, you know, what, number 11 and number 12 in that division. You know what I mean? So yeah, it was special.

KEVIN IOLE: I loved Gamrot's call at Justin Gaethje, but I said in my story that I wrote afterwards-- I said, unfortunately for him, that's a big jump up. And there's a lot of great fighters in between. And also unfortunately for him, you got RDA fighting Fiziev a week later, and they're ranked right above him. So that seems to me like that might be the most logical way to go for Gamrot, given who's ahead of him.

DANA WHITE: Yeah, I think what I love is I love Gamrot-Dariush, when he comes back. So--


DANA WHITE: You have to make a meeting tomorrow, boys.

KEVIN IOLE: [LAUGHS] So we get a little preview of what might go on in there. What is Dariush's health status, and when do we expect to see him back?

DANA WHITE: I have no clue.

KEVIN IOLE: Yeah. So that's a tough one. Well, anyways, Dana, we will let you roll. UFC 276 on Saturday on pay-per-view, on ABC for the prelims, on ESPN for the prelims, ESPN+ for the prelims. It is a mouthful, but it should be a good show. Dana, I appreciate you as always. Thank you so much.

DANA WHITE: Thanks, buddy. Have a great day.

KEVIN IOLE: You too.