We're in show business, they are a sport. Their ratings are abysmal. They are in the pay-per-view business, and they do reasonably well there. We just set a record for WrestleMania.
UFC President Dana White has drawn many comparisons to Vince McMahon just as the UFC and WWE promotions will forever be linked.
White's relentless work ethic and dedication to his brand rivals that of Vince McMahon. Like Vince McMahon, he doesn't back down from confrontation; he actually welcomes it. Like Vince, Dana White has been known to be pugnacious, and at times, petty.
White has even gone out of his way on multiple occasions to publicly state that he likes Vince.
But given McMahon's apparent public animosity toward the UFC, White's continued adoration of McMahon is beginning to resemble intimidation.
McMahon's most recent jab at the UFC wasn't the first time he spoke ill of the mixed martial arts promotion. During a second quarter 2011 conference call, McMahon mocked the UFC (h/t Jason Cruz of Payout) for their struggles at the time to land a TV deal stating:
Frankly I think they fell on their butt recently, trying to do network with NBCU Comcast. I don’t know if it makes any sense for them.
McMahon is no stranger to meddling in UFC's business. In 2005, MMA Weekly reported that Vince McMahon attempted to hijack longtime voice of the UFC Mike Goldberg (h/t Rajah.com) and reportedly "offered Goldberg an undisclosed six-figure sum of money to no-show a high-profile UFC event prior to jumping ship to the WWE."
In January 2010, a rather lackluster UFC Fight Night card incidentally ran head-to-head with Raw. McMahon responded by stacking Raw with a special appearance by Mike Tyson. White's response to McMahon's overly competitive streak was cordial in a post-event press conference, as he endearingly referred to McMahon as "an animal" (h/t Richard Gray of Wrestling News World).
This response by White has become the norm as he seemingly refuses to retaliate at McMahon's dismissive attitude toward the UFC with any form of intensity.
This theme continued in White's response (h/t Nick Paglino of Wrestle Zone) to McMahon's comments about UFC's ratings during an interview with Ariel Helwani, with White saying:
(Laughing and smiling) Vince keeps talking sh*t about us and I don't know why. I don't know why he is talking sh*t about us. I mean there is a lot of things I could say about the WWE, but I would never. I don't know. I don't know why he is trying to kick us in the balls. I like Vince. I have a good relationship with Vince. I think it is in his nature as a competitor, as a human being, it's the way Vince is built. You know?
It's one thing to respect the man. But to be an apologist for Vince McMahon is highly curious behavior, considering Dana White's track record in conflict.
Pro wrestling reporter Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter and F4WOnline.com has written about MMA from the beginning in 1993, since pro wrestlers fought on the first UFC card. When Meltzer analyzed the ratings of UFC's third live special on the Fox network, White flew off the handle and recorded a vitriolic four-minute video response to Meltzer's column.
Yet when Vince McMahon, who is light-years more important and influential than Meltzer, made a similar comment, White seemed to uncharacteristically take it in stride.
White's respect level for McMahon is understandable, if not respectable in its own right. To a man, White has always said that he simply borrowed the WWE's formula to promote a big-time pay-per-view fight and is now arguably executing it better than McMahon himself.
Regardless of how White will handle McMahon's condescension of UFC moving forward, both of these powerful promoters will continue to be market leaders on pay-per-view and in the combat fighting industry.
But despite White's insistence of professionalism when dealing with McMahon, it wouldn't hurt his value as a leader to practice as he preaches and eventually fight back.