Dana White's Biggest Mistakes and Unsolicited Suggestions for the President
Dana White is a genius. His role in the development of MMA is tantamount to what Arnold did for bodybuilding. Every sports fan and entrepreneur must appreciate his achievement: turning a local event into an international phenomena.
Some of his many ingenious methods include: free tickets to fans, video logs, his engaging and honest personality, more fights and cards, Facebook fights, UFC Primetime, TUF, etc.; in summary, incredible work.
No single person has done more for this amazing sport than he has.
This is a list that strives to help him to be aware of some possible decisions that should be reconsidered in order to help him, and his organization, continue to flourish.
Brock Lesnar's Title Shot
Brock Lesnar's title shot was farcical and it threatened any claim that the UFC was deserving of being recognized as a legitimate sports organization.
Lesnar, at the time, only had one UFC win. He was 2-1 in MMA with wins over Heath Herring (who entered the fight 4-4 in his last eight matches and never fought again) and Min-Soo Kim (who retired with a record of 3-7).
It portrayed the company as a finance-first, entertainment-based business. Lesnar sold a lot of pay-per-views and made White a lot of money, but it hurt the authenticity of the brand.
Just as fans predicted, he was in over his head against real competition. The way he flopped and ran from Alistair Overeem and Cain Velasquez was disgraceful. His elevation to title-contender status was a blatant cash grab that embarrassed the sport, the fans and discredited the athletes.
Let the circus acts prove themselves first before bringing them into the UFC. This was repeated in the James Toney debacle.
The pound-for-king for many years was categorically Fedor Emelianenko. Dana's inability to work with his handlers prevented many epic bouts from ever happening. Those fights would have further catapulted the sport into mainstream recognition.
Lamentably, he worsened the matter by routinely disparaging the sport's most marketable man. In today's climate, this rarely happens, and the UFC has done an excellent job of procuring the world's best and making marquee fights happen.
Fight through the ego and see the big picture—sign the best and make the blockbuster bouts happen.
In the future, White should let his fighters do the talking for him in the Octagon and not denounce great fighters outside of the UFC. White often takes to randomly discrediting fighters in other organizations, which harms another's ability to make a living and is detrimental to the sport.
He once tweeted this, to millions of followers, about 10-0 fighter and Olympic silver medalist, Ben Askren:
@DanaWhite: when ambien can't sleep it takes Ben Askren. The most boring fighter in MMA history. I would rather watch flys f*ck
Respect all MMA fighters and recognize that it is in no one's best interest to sabotage someone's credibility and a promotion's rising star. As Big Bird taught me, "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all."
The UFC has made a habit of swallowing competing organizations by purchasing them or deliberately trying to sink them. Examples of this are: Pride, Strikeforce, WEC, Bellator, Affliction, etc.
They do this by offering free events against their PPV nights. They have also refused to do any cross-promotion that might enhance the brand recognition of their rival. Fighters have even been threatened that if they leave the UFC for another organization they would never be welcome again in the UFC (as claimed by B.J. Penn).
More leagues is good for the sport. They are not directly competing with the UFC. they are competing to be feeder organizations and they give fighters an opportunity to develop and to be paid well in the process. They feed fighters and the fans' thirst to support.
Support smaller organizations and encourage their success. It is symbiotic; the more the sport grows, the better it is for the UFC.
With all due respect to Big Bird's creed, Mike Goldberg is a clown. He cannot be taken seriously as a fight expert. The goal is for the UFC become a legitimate mainstream sport; it will not, and can not, happen with such woeful representation.
He recycles the same anecdotes written on his copy sheet and has no experiential authority on martial arts. His commentary offers only banal platitudes, obsequious acquiescence to Joe Rogan's corrections and trite fighting axioms.
Replace Goldberg with better proven commentators who possess actual fighting experience and an enhance the viewing experience with informative insight. Here is a list: Frank Trigg, Kenny Florian, Randy Couture, Pat Miletich or Phil Baroni.
The Ultimate Fighter
The Ulitmate Fighter was the impetus for the sport's growth and was masterfully conceived. Since the inaugural season many unsuccessful attempts to "improve" it have gone awry. The country vs. country theme does not resonate with fans, as people appreciate individuals based on their character and fighting style, not their passport.
The concept of a wild card was ridiculous, as fighters with a loss were winning, thus contradicting the lure of an elimination tournament. The changing of the days and the live concept were also not successful.
Here is an idea to improve the show: camps vs. camps.
For example, TriStar vs. AKA, Gregg Jackson vs. Blackzillians, ATT vs. BTT etc. This would truly be a team competition that would evoke drama and a purposeful commitment and investment by the coaches akin to the IFL concept.
White's lengthy spat with Randy Couture cost "The Natural" valuable time at the end of his career. Captain America deserved better.
The releasing of the iconic Dan Henderson and allowing him to go to Strikeforce for monetary reasons and making disrespectful comments on his departure as to to his value was shockingly disgusting.
Matt Lindland is another example of a pioneer being unceremoniously cast away.
Placing Charles "Mask" Lewis' name inside the Octagon is an excellent example of how White appreciates the efforts of the founders of the sport; he exudes class more often than not.
One suggestion is to create a physical UFC Hall of Fame and provide an engaging experience where fans can go to pay homage to the legends of the sport. Viewing memorabilia and participating in interactive simulations would be thrilling for the millions and millions of MMA fans who so staunchly support the flagship organization.
Don't Like It, Don't Buy It
Anytime White receives criticism over a seemingly poor card, he responds with his, "If fans do not like it, do not buy it" mantra. This is immature, petulant, insensitive and bad business.
There have been lackluster cards and main events that have flopped. The fans love the sport and will buy the PPV because of their passion. They have a right to inform the promoter that the card does not reflect their interests. It is disrespectful and callous to treat one's clients in that manner.
For the main event and the co-main event, have a comparable fighter on call in case of a last-minute cancellation. Yes, this might cost the UFC more money to pay two fighters for being on reserve, but the rewards outweigh the risks. It also ensures that UFC 149 in Calgary and UFC 151 will not repeat themselves.
Chael Sonnen-Jon Jones
Jon Jones-Chael Sonnen is transparent and corrupts any belief in a legitimate title contender formula. It further exacerbates hypocrisy by forcing a Dan Henderson-Lyoto Machida bout, which is unjust as legendary Dan Henderson loses his title bid and risks never having another title bout again.
I love Sonnen. He did amazing in his two fights with Silva; he made sports magic happen. However, he did not deserve this fight.
An idea for improvement is to post on the website a comprehensive ranking system so fans can see where the fighters are positioned and understand the path to title contention as opposed to having an arbitrary and oft-suspicious policy.
Aldo and Rousey's Automatic Titles
There is no doubt that Jose Aldo and Ronda were the best in their divisions. They are incredible athletes who came over to the organization with respectable titles.
However, one cannot be a UFC champion without ever having a UFC fight. It is nonsensical and detracts from the value of a UFC strap. There is no disrespect to either of these two stars, it is the principle.
In the future, there should be a tournament format to determine the champion of a new division.
Anderson Silva Superfights
Anderson Silva is the greatest fighter on the planet. He is categorically one of the greatest athletes of all time. Yet, he has been wasted as a commodity. Silva's challenges at 205 have been carefully construed cans.
James Irvin was the biggest challenge at 205 in 2008?
He was subsequently released from the UFC and has gone 3-5 in his MMA career post-Silva. Forrest Griffin is affable and crowd pleasing but is slow and is far from hard-hitting; he had no chance. Stephan Bonnar is even slower and less risky.
White once said about Mayweather-Marquez, that it was a further example of boxing giving the fans the fights people do not want to see. The same can be said about Anderson's 205 fights.
Make the Jones and GSP fights.
Don't Leave It in the Hands of the Judges
Fighters who win, do not get cut. Fighters who lose, do. This establishes a conservative mindset. Athletes who push the pace and press the action and make great fights but lose should be kept on.
When White laments boring fights in which the winner obviously only sought to win via decision, he does not recognize the role that he plays in creating this ethos.
Release and maintain fighters based on performance and not results. Mark Hominick recently lost four consecutive fights and was not released (he retired); but this is an excellent example of when to not release a fighter.
Fabio Maldonado is another example of when to not cut fighters, well done. This pattern should be more consistently applied lest it continue to be an incentive to fight safely for a decision win.
The incredibly stacked Fox 5 card, seen before millions of people, had several fighters paid shockingly poor sums. The six lowest-paid fighters earned a combined $58,000.
UFC 154 in Montreal had a gate of over $3 million and close to 700,000 estimated PPV buys. Fighters on the undercard of PPV events are routinely paid $6,000 a fight. Factor in the amount of hours of training an athlete invests to perform in a UFC event and it would be criminally below minimum wage.
Three months of work to earn $6,000 before taxes?
Their compensation should be reflective of the fact that these are the elite, the best of the world's best. It is worth noting that fighters often receive additional, undisclosed bonuses.
There should be a 50k fighter minimum and a base percentage allocated to each fighter based on the event's gross. In 10 years, when the UFC—and their billionaire owners—is still flourishing, today's athletes will have only glory days, concussive damage and broken bodies to sustain themselves.
Fair compensation would assuage the ethical debate of supporting such an unconscionable practice of inequity that hinders the sport's acceptability.
The prez has done an amazing job and will continue to do so in 2013 and beyond. Hopefully this medium of constructive criticism benefits the sport. His engaging personality and refreshing candor is a perfect model that all sport personalities should follow. I doubt he will happily greet the observations.
According to Yahoo! Sports, White stated this in response to complains about the Jones-Sonnen affair: "I have all the answers. The Internet does not. We built this company and we know what we're doing."
Admittedly, Uncle Dana does have many answers and has tangible proof to support his promotional skill. I recognize that my insights are unsolicited and White has built a billion-dollar business and I have not.
Regardless, I offer my perspective in the hopes it offers an impetus for reflection and makes the MMA universe a better place. I, along with the millions of new fans, owe Mr. White a debt of gratitude.