1. strange or eccentric.
In a sport where masculinity is prized and the symbols and accoutrements of male pride are displayed, splashed and painted across various $100 T-shirts, custom headphones and the ugliest jeans you ever saw, it is not surprising that UFC president Dana White would tell former welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre to "be a man and pick up the phone."
Never you mind St-Pierre's long and historic stint as one of the UFC's most popular and marketable athletes. Ignore the mainstream respect he has garnered as a soft-spoken and intelligent man who helped change the idea that people who get in a cage and punch other men for a living are barbaric and bloodthirsty animals.
Overlook all of the millions of dollars he directly put in the company coffers through various and sundry blockbuster pay-per-view events.
Throw all of that nonsense to the side of the road. Lump him in there with Frank Shamrock, Tito Ortiz, Rampage Jackson and the Internet. Forget about the past, because it is a distant memory now that St-Pierre has relinquished his championship belt and taken something of a sabbatical from fighting. And especially now that he has decided the time has arrived to vent his feelings, so long dormant, to the world at large.
Right now, GSP cannot add to the UFC's bottom line, so he is fair game.
St-Pierre never said much during his UFC tenure. He was quiet and devoid of controversy. As it turns out, he was perhaps keeping plenty inside as he went about the job of being one of the most marketable and best fighters in the UFC.
These days, he is speaking of steroids and his belief that the UFC did not do enough to support him through his one-man effort to clean up his own little portion of the sport. He is talking of monopolies and the UFC's power to get whatever it wants.
And so White, clad for battle, appeared at the UFC Fight Night 35 post-fight press conference and then on Fox Sports Live later on Wednesday night. He urged the three or four journalists in attendance to ask him the tough questions about St-Pierre, which was something of a system shock because White's history of dealing honestly with tough questions is a mixed bag.
He will say things that we cannot imagine other executives saying, but that is not the same thing as open and unfettered truth.
“As far as the other thing that he said that we’re a monopoly, Viacom is our competitor,” White told the assembled media. “They have a $40 billion dollar market cap – $40 billion dollars. I’m never going to see $40 billion as long as I live, neither will the UFC. So we’re not a monopoly either. Everything that Georges St-Pierre said is a little kooky.”
We should probably get one thing out of the way right here and now: Comparing the UFC to Bellator by comparing the UFC's financial status to that of Viacom is, as White says, a little kooky. Viacom is the parent company of Bellator, sure, but if White truly believes Bellator, Spike and Bjorn Rebney have unfettered access to a bank account overflowing with $40 billion, well, I don't know what to say.
As the excellent Bloody Elbow writer Brent Brookhouse said, if Bellator had access to $40 billion in cash, it would sink the UFC. And since we know Bellator is nowhere close to being a blip on the UFC's radar, we should probably assume that White's repeated gestures to Viacom and its evil billions are nothing more than posturing.
But the more important question is this: Why is St-Pierre speaking out now? Why wait until he's safely pseudo-retired and ensconced within Canada's borders?
Perhaps that's the issue White has with the whole thing—that St-Pierre waited until he'd already handed the belt back and gone home before bringing any of this up. That's according to White, anyway, who claimed his former welterweight champion mentioned exactly zero of this during a post-fight meeting at UFC 167.
And maybe White has a point, you know?
St-Pierre had mostly refused to address MMA's rampant steroid problem, despite plenty of folks pointing a finger directly at him over the years. It's difficult to believe he was troubled enough by this issue to walk away from the sport when he spent years sweeping it under the rug and expressing shock and anger when opponents accused him of the same thing.
But in the end, there is such a thing as tact, and White is showing very little of it in his public reactions to St-Pierre. "Be a man" is the territory of frat boys and bros, and one would hope White could find it within himself to advance beyond such notions when dealing with an athlete who has done nothing but carry himself as a great champion and ambassador for a blood sport.
There may come a day when St-Pierre decides he's ready to come back to the Octagon. He won't need to do it for the money. But he is an ultra-competitive man, and you know this is true because of the heights he attained. He may sit on the sidelines and watch Robbie Lawler, Johny Hendricks or Carlos Condit carry his belt around later this year and decide: Hey, I'm going to go back and beat them up.
But White might be ensuring that day never comes with the comments he's making now. I understand the need to defend his company against rumors and threats, and I know White shifts into fighting mode when he's attacked.
But now is not the time for war. Now is the time for measured responses and calculated language.
Anything else may only succeed in pushing St-Pierre so far away that he never returns to the company he helped push to unprecedented international heights.
All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Jeremy Botter is a lead MMA writer. Follow him on Twitter.
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