Do Dana White's Antics Help or Hurt the Growth of MMA and the UFC?

Matt SaccaroContributor IIIApril 8, 2013

Dec 27, 2012; Las Vegas, NV, USA; UFC president Dana White scratches his head as he talks with members of the media after the press conference for UFC 155 at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Dana White's increasingly inflammatory and pernicious antics are making the UFC look bush league—unworthy of a deal with a major network such as Fox. 

This isn't about White's frequent swearing. 

This isn't about his choice of attire—trendy T-shirts—that some might say is unbefitting an executive. 

This isn't even about his notorious disdain for certain media members

This is about White's attitude toward the fans and toward criticism of the UFC's product. 

Recently, the main event of UFC on Fuel TV 9 fell apart. Rising Swedish star Alexander Gustafsson was supposed to face Gegard Mousasi in the latter's long-awaited UFC debut, but the fight never came to pass. 

A cut above Gustafsson's eye kept the Swede from being cleared to fight by the Swedish MMA Federation. 

An intriguing main event with established fighters disappeared in the stroke of a pen on a medical form. 

The UFC lost a main event, and fans lost the only meaningful fight on the card.

UFC brass scrambled to find a replacement and ultimately put the unheralded, unheard of, desperately outmatched Swedish journeyman Ilir Latifi opposite Mousasi in the main event. 

Let that sink in. 

The UFC likes to call themselves the "Super Bowl of MMA," yet a 7-2 (one NC) fighter that had no significant wins and no name value was deemed good enough to main event one of their cards. True, these were trying circumstances, but the world's largest and most prestigious MMA promotion should be better prepared. 

An obvious solution to losing a main event is to bump up the co-main event or to otherwise shuffle the card around to make it satisfactory at the very least. 

This couldn't be done with UFC on Fuel TV 9; the talent on the card was lacking. It was a classic "boxing card' in the sense that the main event was the only reason to watch; the undercard was less than nothing special. 

When fans vocalized their thoughts to Dana White over Twitter, he berated them:

@michaeldavsmith shut up dickhead this fight isn't costing u a dime.

— Dana White (@danawhite) April 2, 2013

@eskoseppanen shut up dummy you don't pay shit

— Dana White (@danawhite) April 3, 2013

This isn't the first time the UFC president has lashed out at unhappy fans. 

UFC 152 featured a flyweight title fight between Demetrious Johnson and Joseph Benavidez. Paying customers weren't too thrilled with the match, and they made their thoughts known in the form of boos and Internet jeers.

White was characteristically recalcitrant. 

"Let me tell you what: If you didn't like that flyweight fight, please, I'm begging you, don't ever buy another UFC pay-per-view again," he told after the event. 

He continued his incisive rant against the fans, saying "Don't ever buy another one...I don't want your money. You're a moron, you don't like fighting, you don't appreciate great talent, or heart, if you didn't like that flyweight fight." 

White's intransigence is concerning. 

When Vince McMahon puts on a terrible wrestling pay-per-view, he doesn't call the fans idiots. When a boxing match fails to deliver, the promoters don't take to Twitter to sling insults with trolls or even legitimate commenters. 

Comparisons with other fields aside, we can all agree that telling fans not to buy or watch your product is a peculiar business strategy. Callously insulting your fanbase isn't the best strategy for long-term growth, either.

White is hurting the brand's image when he goes off on tirades against his paying customers. What other major company or corporate figurehead does that?

This is not to say that White is inherently bad and needs to be replaced. White's frequent swearing, choice of clothing (remember his "dickhouse" shirt?), giving away free tickets and positive use of social media (#Hunt4UFC contests and the like) have earned him many fans and more than 2.5 million Twitter followers. 

If speaking and dressing like a regular person rather than a pretentious CEO made him such an uncouth barbarian, would he have been invited to speak at the prestigious Oxford Union Society back in 2010?

White is a unique character and telling him to act like an anodyne drone wouldn't be constructive. His personality, while polemic, isn't the problem.  

White plays the "cool rich guy" gimmick well. It works. It appeals to the UFC's key demographic of 18 to 34-year-old males. Who would a young, testosterone-laden man better relate with and prefer more, a stiff like Bud Selig or a cussing, informal character like White?

But White being ornery and dissing the fans—the people that are carrying and supporting his company in the form of television views, PPV buys and merchandise sales—is inexcusable and can only be harmful. 

When enough of the fans are angry, like they were after UFC on Fuel 9's main event vanished, White needs to look at his own organization for the blame. The audience is never at fault for not happily accepting an inferior product.