Fact from Fiction: Analyzing Dana White's Ireland Media Scrum

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Fact from Fiction: Analyzing Dana White's Ireland Media Scrum
USA Today

Dana White's scrums are usually a source of fantastic information. The UFC president sits down on a chair, the media circle around him, and an informal chat begins. White will discuss the latest in UFC news and share his opinion on nearly any subject under the sun.

The scrums are so popular that the promotion recently began airing them on Fight Pass, the digital subscription service that will also air Saturday's UFC card from Dublin, Ireland. The scrums are no longer the sole domain of the media; now they belong to everybody, as long as the everybody in question is fine with shelling out $9.99 per month or $7.99 per month if you subscribe for a year.

This is a good thing, because it allows me to sit in the comfort of my own home and watch the proceedings on my television instead of traveling halfway around the world. I might wear pants, or I might not. I might not even get out of bed. In fact, that's what I did on Friday morning: I stayed in bed and watched White address the media in a building 4,943 miles from my front door.

The wonders of technology.

It also affords me other luxuries, such as shouting obscenities at the television and resisting strong urges to hurl my remote. These two things also happened on Friday morning, as I sat and listened to White say things that made no sense.

Some of the things he said were downright false. I felt like White knew he was saying things that were false, but he was saying them anyway, and I took to Twitter to unleash a rant that sprinted far past the 140-character limit.

Now, after I have eaten lunch and calmed down, I would like to address some of the things White said during his scrum. Pull up a chair, because this might take awhile.

 

Dana said: Nate Diaz is not a needle mover

"I love Nate Diaz. Nate Diaz is actually one of my favorite kids. I always got along with Nate; Nate was always great. Lowest-rated Fox show ever. Lowest-rated Fox show ever. His numbers, he doesn't pull the numbers in. Nick is a needle mover. Nick moves the needle. Nate doesn't pull good numbers."

This is partially true. Nate Diaz did, in fact, pull a low rating for his UFC on Fox 3 bout against Jim Miller. That event averaged 2.41 million viewers. But 2.41 million viewers isn't the worst number the UFC has ever pulled for a Fox event. It's actually the third-worst, behind Shogun Rua vs. Brandon Vera and Demetrious Johnson vs. John Moraga.

Bottom 3 UFC on Fox Ratings
Event Main Event Viewers (millions)
UFC on Fox 4 Shogun Rua vs. Brandon Vera 2.36
UFC on Fox 8 Demetrious Johnson vs. John Moraga 2.40
UFC on Fox 3 Nate Diaz vs. Jim Miller 2.41

TV by the Numbers

At UFC on Fox 5, Diaz returned to network television to face Benson Henderson for the lightweight championship. That event pulled a 4.4 rating, the third-highest in the entire Fox fight-card series. White ignored this fact and continued stating, incorrectly, that Diaz had pulled the worst Fox number in the history of the series.

Top 3 UFC on Fox Ratings
Event Main Event Viewers (millions)
UFC on Fox 1 Cain Velasquez vs. Junior dos Santos 5.7
UFC on Fox 2 Rashad Evans vs. Phil Davis 4.7
UFC on Fox 4 Benson Henderson vs. Nate Diaz 4.4

TV by the Numbers

When reporter Ariel Helwani brought up Diaz's The Ultimate Fighter 18 finale bout against Gray Maynard—which drew 1,129,000 viewers on Fox Sports 1 last December—White ignored him and repeated, once again incorrectly, that Diaz was the lowest draw in the history of Fox fight cards.

After the scrum, White participated in a Twitter battle with Diaz manager Mike Kogan.

And then he proceeded to make fun of a critic because of the way he looks.

Michael Nagle/Getty Images

In a sense, White is correct. Diaz is not a needle mover in the same way that, say, Georges St-Pierre or Brock Lesnar or Chael Sonnen are needle movers.

It is hard to imagine Nate Diaz adding an extra 300,000 pay-per-view buys to an event on his own. Nick Diaz does not even have that kind of drawing power. Both Diaz brothers are popular, but they don't possess the kind of popularity that can give them clout with the UFC.

White and Lorenzo Fertitta aren't jumping through hoops to get Diaz back into the fold. If St-Pierre were in the same position as Diaz, you can bet your bottom dollar they would move heaven and earth to get him back in the Octagon as quickly as possible.

But while Diaz may not be a big draw, he is also not the worst draw in the history of Fox events. That sounds fun to say when you're in the middle of an extended standoff with one of your fighters, but it simply is not true.


Dana said: Lots of things about Cris "Cyborg" Justino

"I'm not ready for Cyborg. I told you guys, this whole f-----g script will flip when I sign her," White said. "The day I f-----g sign Cyborg, all you're going to be talking to me about is drug testing. Drugs, drugs, drugs, drugs, drugs. It's a funny game you guys play with me."

This is the second time White has voiced this refrain, and it is a curious one. White has spent more than a year noting that Justino failed a test for performance enhancing drugs.

February 2013, via MMA Junkie:

OK, so you don’t want to make 135 but you want to talk about fighting Ronda. First of all, you tested positive for steroids and got stripped of your title, and you’re trying to talk about how Ronda doesn’t want to fight you.

Cyborg’ is pretty much irrelevant right now. Go out there and win some fights again, get your name back, stay clean, stay off steroids, get your career back on track and we’ll talk. But for her to think that everyone should move around and jump through hoops for her is insane.

Exactly one year later, I sat in a conference room at the UFC offices in Las Vegas and listened to White unleash an epic rant about Cyborg's drug usage. He stood up from his chair at the end of the conference table, his face growing increasingly red and his voice increasingly louder. 

"She got busted for drugs. I mean, really look at this thing. You guys want to kick Vitor Belfort in the groin every f-----g second of every day at every press conference and everything else," he said. "And you want to ask me if f-----g Cyborg is going to fight Ronda. First, she said she would die."

Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images

White continued raving about Justino's test failure, which came after a December 2011 Strikeforce event in California. Justino served a one-year suspension for the failure and has passed every test administered since.

This does not mean Justino is entirely clean, of course, but it does mean that she has passed the same test panels that UFC fighters are tested with on fight nights, which are the same test results White uses when he says that most of his fighters are clean

But White, who is incredibly forgiving with most fighters on his own roster who fail tests, was not satisfied.

"What's going to happen with Cyborg? I want one person in this room to tell me they think she's f-----g clean," White yelled. "Who? Who? Who here thinks she's clean?"

Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images

Wisely, every media member but one kept their hands down. White took this to mean we all shared his opinion that Justino is still a dirty fighter, when in reality it just is not our job to crucify people in that manner.

He sat down, satisfied that he'd made his point.

This is White. The filter between his brain and his mouth works sparingly. He says what he wants. It is a trait that has made him incredibly popular with UFC fans; it is not a stretch to say he is one of the top three to five most popular stars in the company.

But that's not always a good thing. White has repeatedly discussed Justino and her drug failure for more than a year. That horse is dead and buried, and the media has moved on. And yet White continues bringing it up, over and over again.

But now that Justino signing with the UFC seems like an inevitability, it is suddenly the media's fault. He'll do the right thing and sign her, but any discussion of steroids that happens after she's on the roster will happen because the media won't let it go.

Once again, this isn't the truth. But if you say something enough times from a high enough pulpit, people will eventually believe it.

Later in Friday's scrum, White again took a shot at Justino when discussing Gina Carano's chances of actually competing with Rousey.

"She did a damn good job against Cyborg," White said. "And Cyborg was a little jacked up on Mountain Dew in that fight, you know what I mean?"

We know what he means. What he's implying is that Justino was taking steroids when she fought Carano, that she had a little bit of help in wresting control of that Strikeforce women's title away from MMA's darling.

In April he said that Justino looked like "Wanderlei Silva in a dress" and then proceeded to stand up from a scrum and stomp around the stage to illustrate his point to laughing media members. It is clear from moments like that one and his constant badgering of people on Twitter for the way they look that personal appearance is very important to him.

Rousey is beautiful; Cyborg is not. And so White continues beating the drums about Justino and steroids, and he'll likely continue doing so right up to the moment when she becomes a UFC fighter.

At that point, I suspect we'll never hear a peep about Mountain Dew or steroids again.

 

Dana says: Ronda Rousey is the highest-paid female athlete in the world

"It drives us crazy because there was this thing that came out about all the female athletes and who the highest-paid athlete is. It’s Ronda."

I am sure the UFC takes good care of Ronda Rousey. I am certain she makes far more than the $60,000 to show and $60,000 to win that is reported to commissions. She is very likely a millionaire, and she will earn a lot more money in the future from her fights and sponsors and movies.

But to say she's the current highest-paid female athlete in the world? Sorry. Not buying it.

USA TODAY Sports

Tennis star Maria Sharapova made roughly $30 million dollars last year. Serena Williams earned $20.5 million; Li Na pulled in $18.2 million. NASCAR driver Danica Patrick raked in $15 million.

Again, I am sure Rousey makes fantastic money, and she'll likely make millions more before she's through. But she is not in the same stratosphere as Sharapova—not even close.

At the end of the day, I realize White is a promoter, and that it is his job to promote UFC fights and to promote those in his company. But having a license to promote is not the same thing as having a license to say whatever you want, especially when the things you are saying simply are not true. And eventually, White is going to learn that having a little foresight is better than burning bridges.

He might be having problems with Diaz right now, and Justino may not be one of his fighters, but there will likely come a day when he must personally deal with both.

Preparing for those moments is more important than saying whatever is on your mind.

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