That's an understatement, of course. Nelson has irked White for years, dating back to the days before "Big Country" was even in the UFC.
White gets along famously with just about everyone—unless you happen to run a mixed martial arts company that represents a threat to the UFC's global dominance in the sport—but there's just something about Nelson that's always made White a little hot under the collar.
There was a time, in fact, when most observers of the sport believed that Nelson would never get his chance in the UFC due to his rough relationship with White. The fact that he was forced to enter The Ultimate Fighter house and win his way into the UFC despite being a seasoned veteran lends a hefty dose of credibility to that idea.
Today, even though Nelson has been in the UFC since 2009 and even though he's one of the most popular fighters on the roster with a penchant for stunning knockouts and exciting fights, that relationship remains unchanged.
White still doesn't like Nelson, and he isn't shy about expressing his opinion.
A few weeks ago, White sarcastically referred to Nelson as "the smartest man on Earth" during a media scrum that Bleacher Report attended. Nelson, being a savvy businessman, immediately had a batch of t-shirts made up in record time that featured the expression and attributed it to White.
When asked if he believed Nelson was trying to drum up support as an anti-authority figure from those in the UFC's fanbase that dislike White, the UFC president told Yahoo Sports that wasn't the case:
He's not doing that. He's not. It's nothing he's thought about and is intentionally trying to do. He's not that smart. Let's be honest. He's just not a smart guy. He's just that guy who is irritating. He thinks he's smart, but he's an absolute pain in the ass.
He jumped up on the Octagon [after beating Kimbo Slice] and said to me, 'Go get me a Whopper,' as if Burger King or McDonald's would ever want to have a guy who looks like that endorsing [its] product. He think's he's funny, but to me, he's an idiot.
I will never understand White's need to mock fighters on his own roster. He's generally very good at building up the guys who represent his company, even to the point where we sometimes roll our eyes when he's trying to sell someone who doesn't deserve a title shot.
It doesn't happen that often, mind you. It happened with Tito Ortiz when he and White were feuding, and it happens with Nelson today.
But if you ask me, that's two cases too many. Nelson may not have White's ideal body type, but who cares? If he delivers in the cage and builds up popularity with fans, you should be looking to capitalize on that, not trying to hurt Nelson's reputation.
He's an asset, and he's not being treated as one. I'm not saying he's in Georges St-Pierre or Anderson Silva's class as a pay-per-view draw, but he's certainly one of the most popular fighters in the heavyweight division.
Some have pointed to White's comments, and the fact that Nelson is going into the final fight of his contract at UFC 161, as a reason the UFC president might cut "Big Country" loose even if he wins.
And I'm here to tell you right now: Despite the things that White says about Nelson in public, and despite his distaste for Nelson's body type, there's simply no chance that Nelson will be cut or released or not signed to a new contract after his fight with Stipe Miocic, even if he loses.
White has disliked Nelson for a long time. If he wanted to cut him, he could have done so after Nelson lost his first UFC fight to Junior dos Santos. Or when he lost the next bout to Frank Mir. Nelson lost two fights in a row and still retained his job, despite White constantly belittling him in front of the media and fans.
If White didn't feel the need to release Nelson after two consecutive losses, why would he cut him now, when he's won three fights in a row and when his popularity is growing with each big knockout?
Sure, Nelson will have to sign a new contract. And he'll probably get a hefty raise from the meager $24,000 purse he's received since winning The Ultimate Fighter. But even if the UFC has to pay Nelson $150,000 or more on his new contract, it'll gladly do so, because Nelson is a legitimate star and potential contender for a big heavyweight title fight.
Yes, I said Nelson is a potential contender for the heavyweight title, and I meant it.
He'll need to beat a top contender before he gets to that point, because White isn't going to make things easy on him. But if Nelson beats Miocic and then knocks out someone ranked in the top five, it'd be virtually impossible not to put Nelson against the champion.
What it all comes down to is value. The UFC is a star-driven organization that focuses on building up names that can bring eyeballs to pay-per-view events. And whether White likes him or not, Nelson is a valuable commodity for the promotion. He's popular and can't seem to have anything but exciting fights.
That's an asset, and the UFC will make every effort to keep him in the organization, no matter how White feels about Nelson's personality.
To think anything otherwise is ludicrous.
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