I have been asking the lead question to myself for sometime now and UFC 112 only further cemented my opinion, so I have decided it's time to voice said opinion to see what everyone else thinks.
There is no doubting that the UFC is Dana White's baby. Yes, there is the financial backing of the Fertitta's, the media link with Spike, and the many other integral sponsors, fighters, and commercial partners who have all helped to build the UFC brand, but this is White's creation.
However, I think we may be reaching a tipping point in the company's and the sport's growth where Dana may be losing the total control he has had thus far. Is the UFC really outgrowing White?
In one word, yes.
That's right, the tipping point is coming and the balance of power is shifting. Very few leading sporting organizations are controlled by one solitary figure and in many cases the teams and players have just as much power as the league.
The concept of player power has been around for sometime in English soccer where players control where and when they play for whom. I don't like it and don't agree with it, but it happens and it's been around for sometime and I am sure it goes on in other sports too.
The reason I bring it up is that Anderson Silva may very will be the seed that grows into a bigger issue for the UFC and White.
For all the criticism thrown at Silva post-UFC 112, including a lot from White, what did he actually do wrong?
Look at it from this angle for a moment. He won the fight, defended his title, took minimal damage, and exerted a low amount of energy. Without watching the fight and knowing what went on you would put that down as a good day in the office, wouldn't you?
Does Silva's performance highlight the fact that at the end of the day the only people in control of what happens inside the Octagon are the two fighters?
This could all of course be left in the history books as everyone moves on with the next leading issue to surround MMA. But take stock of this moment, folks, because I feel we are entering a critical time in the brief history of MMA, and as the history books are being written each day this could turn into a very key moment when we look back.
For all of Silva's antics in the cage this past weekend in Abu Dhabi at UFC 112, what can White really do about it, and shouldn't he shoulder some of the blame for putting an inadequate challenger in Demian Maia in a title fight?
Let's be real, White is not going to strip the belt from the champion. Any financial punishment is meaningless and does not send out the right message. Finally, putting Silva in a tough fight at light-heavyweight or heavyweight as some sort of punishment would actually give Silva what he wants—a challenge.
Of all the scenarios, I see Silva getting a tough fight for his next matchup, either against Vitor Belfort (a top light-heavyweight) or possibly Frank Mir. This would only prove that a monumental shift in power is occurring in favor of the fighters because Silva will ultimately be deciding his own future by his antics at UFC 112.
At the end of the day, maybe this is fair because the fighters are what makes this sport so great and they are the driving force behind the growth of MMA. Stars such as Georges St. Pierre deserve all their success and are clearly working hard outside of the cage to get it.
I am in no way condoning what Silva did at UFC 112, but I just think it's an indication that White's grip on his own creation might be loosening.
The point is coming when White won't be able to single-handedly control the UFC. It's only a matter of time as the UFC continues to expand globally. When that time comes, you can also expect the power of fighters to keep growing as well, with the formation of a fighter's union surely only a matter of time.
A famous superhero once said, "With great power comes great responsibility."
Is the power afforded to White too much? Can one man continue to control an organization as big as the UFC? Has the UFC outgrown its creator?
Well, in short, I would answer yes, no, yes.
White's power and influence is becoming an issue and potentially harmful to the sport; there is not much more he can do by himself. The UFC is now a global phenomenon and it is bigger than White. I think the time is coming for him to take a back seat and enjoy the fruits of his labor.
Add to that the growing influence of the big stars in the sport and you get a real shift in the equilibrium that exists within the UFC in the present.
I don't have the answers and these are only my random babblings on what I think will become a bigger topic of conversation in the next few years.
I'd love to know your thoughts and do you think the UFC has outgrown Dana White?