Dana White: How the UFC's 'Grim Reaper' Is Killing MMA

Oliver Saenz@PdW2kXCorrespondent IMay 2, 2012


When I recently chronicled the five dumbest things Dana White has said in recent years, one notable entry was unfortunately omitted. When a friend told me what I had forgotten, I remarked, “Well, that’s a big enough one that I may just write an entire article on it.”

And so here we are.

Before we begin, I’d just like to point out one thing: I am not the one calling Dana White “The Grim Reaper of MMA.” White called himself that, in one of his famous pre-fight YouTube blog videos that has since been removed.

But the above picture, in all its glory, still exists as a testament to a video that ended with Dana White grinning from ear to ear while holding a mock tombstone covered in the logos of former MMA promotions that directly tried to compete with the UFC. The video ended with the controversial UFC president uttering the now-famous words, "I'm the Grim Reaper."

I’m simply agreeing with him, and stating my case for why Dana White being The Grim Reaper of MMA is one of the worst aspects of this sport of ours.

But first, let’s give the devil his due: The UFC would be long dead had it not been for White’s cunning and downright ruthlessness. The money the Fertitta brothers brought to the table certainly helped, but we’ve seen several major examples of big-time money getting involved in MMA only to close shop a few years (even a few shows!) later.

The only problem is, a large reason why those major-money promotions have gone belly-up has been the UFC’s ruthless counter-programming efforts.

Yet if we’re going to give Dana White his due as a necessary evil, let’s give the promoters who  tried to compete with him their just desserts: A lot of the time these people have been idiots, or at the very least, they've done very idiotic things.

The UFC’s counter-programming efforts certainly didn’t help, but many UFC fans (especially ardent Dana White supporters) believe that the stupidity of those in charge of promotions like Elite XC and Affliction did far more damage and planted many more nails in the coffin than the ill effects of the UFC counter-programming all their major shows.

While that is true, too many fans are willing to sweep the UFC’s ruthless competitiveness under the rug and blame a whole host of other reasons for why a fledgling promotion came to an abrupt end.

What we all need to understand, and what history more than backs up, is simple: The UFC’s goal is not to compete with other promotions.

It is to kill other promotions.

The rise and fall of Affliction, Elite XC, Strikeforce, and even the IFL have all followed similar patterns: When they’re small enough not to directly compete with the UFC, the UFC more or less pays them no mind. Dana White may even throw them a compliment every once in a while.

But the second a promotion even attempts to get to the UFC’s level, the UFC will do whatever it can to ruthlessly tear down and pillage that promotion with the end goal being to buy it out completely.

Here are several big examples: The UFC gave away unstoppable champion Anderson Silva’s Light Heavyweight debut on free TV, putting him against a total can, just so they could try to take a chunk out of the buyrate of Affliction’s first pay-per-view. When both Elite XC and Strikeforce rose to prominence, Dana White not only constantly counter-programmed them, he constantly tried to discredit their top fighters. In the case of Elite XC it was Kimbo Slice; for Strikeforce it was Fedor Emelianenko.

And if anyone wants to say that White’s criticisms of Slice were justified, I’d like to refer you back to my earlier post and the accompanying video that shows multiple interviews of White falling over himself trying to build Kimbo back up into a marketable star once the UFC was able to get Slice on its roster.

Most recently, Dana White has begun targeting Bellator FC and has, in fact, already signed away Hector Lombard. Lombard leaves Bellator as one of arguably only two bona fide stars competing in the promotion (the other being Eddie Alvarez) and as the current Bellator Middleweight Champion.

No matter who has been at the helm, who is headlining the card, what network signs on to broadcast the fights, or how much money is involved, the result has always been the same: All competition eventually falls to and is ultimately cannibalized by the UFC.

And you know what? Some would argue that that’s a good thing. I can admit that I can understand their point. Perhaps at this moment in time in MMA, we need a super-promotion. We need one, and only one, golden standard. When the sport is on the level of other major sports, maybe then there will be enough room for more than one major MMA promotion.

But you know what else? I don’t accept that.

I accept the fact that the UFC is and probably will stay the be-all and end-all in MMA. But I don’t accept for a second that it has to be this way.

I think there is room enough for more than one major promotion. But those in charge of the UFC, particularly Dana White, don’t seem to feel that way. It’s true that anyone with enough money and enough brains can start a promotion in MMA. But frankly, that’s a loophole so the UFC can avoid any complications that come with being branded a monopoly.

You want me to be brutally honest? Here you go: I think the UFC is a monopoly. Thanks to all the money it’s making, it can afford to do whatever needs to be done in order to ultimately beat out any worthwhile competition, most of the time before it even becomes worthwhile competition!

Saying the UFC isn’t a monopoly is like saying that it’s just “economic progress” when a WalMart moves into a community and ultimately forces all its “mom and pop” competition out of business.

So, yes, Dana White was right when he called himself The Grim Reaper of MMA. No matter what your circumstances are, it appears that the UFC can and will be more than happy to do its part in speeding up your descent into bankruptcy.

Even if you’ve got smart heads running the promotion, you probably won’t have enough money to really compete with the UFC. If you’ve got enough money to compete with the UFC, chances are that the actual organization of your organization isn’t very organized because it takes so much money from so many different people and entities in order to even come close to actually competing with the UFC.

And so far there simply hasn’t been the perfect combination of money and brains to create a worthwhile rival, not since the fall of PRIDE FC and the emergence of “The Ultimate Fighter” allowed the UFC to claim its current status as the greatest Mixed Martial Arts promotion on the planet.

And if a promotion ever comes along that is that one-in-a-million jack-of-all-trades? At the end of the day, they’re still not the UFC.

Until somebody comes along and proves me wrong, I truly believe that the struggle to A) establish a long-term, successful brand outside of the UFC to begin with and B) directly compete with the UFC once the UFC actually considers that promotion a threat will be too much for anybody and everybody, no matter who is running the show or how much money is involved.

So is it all hopeless? I hate to say it, but at this point in time…yes, yes it is.

You cannot compete with the UFC because the UFC does not compete.  The UFC kills.

And Dana White really is The Grim Reaper.