Stop me if you've heard this one before: Dana White doesn't like somebody, and he doesn't mind telling anyone who will listen exactly what he thinks.
It's that trait that made White one of the biggest stars in the UFC. Fighters come and go, but White and his over-the-top soundbites never stop. He's always there to tell you what is literally (figuratively) happening, and he's always good for an off-the-cuff response when you need one.
He's engaged in public spats with folks for years. Nobody is safe: other promoters, television network officials and even his own fighters. If you piss White off, there is a very good chance he'll tell everybody about it. Tito Ortiz is his most popular target, but White's ire isn't restricted to just Ortiz.
Now, White has a new favorite target: Ben Askren, the former Bellator welterweight champion.
You know the story, so we'll save time going through the recap here: Askren wanted to go to the UFC after Bellator released him. Negotiations didn't go well, and Askren ended up going to OneFC instead. White told MMA Junkie Askren needed to beat more top-level guys, which was a hilarious thing when you consider that Askren is a top-10 welterweight and the UFC roster is stuffed to overflowing with fighters who have very little professional experience.
Things calmed down for a while, and White even admitted last week he'd be willing to take a second look at Askren. But then Askren appeared on Inside MMA last week and put White on blast, saying he could have a successful career even if he never signs with the UFC. Yes, Askren was responding to the baffling line of questioning (and disrespectful follow-up) from host Kenny Rice, but he still insulted White.
After that, things went as they always do when White has an enemy. On Wednesday night, White appeared on UFC Tonight and rekindled his hate affair with Askren (via MMA Junkie):
I thought Tito (Ortiz) was the dumbest guy I’ve ever met. (Askren) is an absolute moron. He gets it. He’s copying everything Tito does. Obviously you get lots of attention if you talk about the UFC, you don’t like me, or whatever your thing is – obviously, you get a lot of attention. He stole that – Tito ought to sue him for stealing that one.
Here's the thing: This kind of deal isn't good for anyone.
It isn't a good look for White. It never has been. At first glance, mixed martial arts fans might think White is awesome and cool because he says whatever he wants and doesn't care about the consequences. But most of that act grew tired long ago, and White hasn't changed his tune. It is likely he never will, because this is who he is. It is hard to not have respect for White saying and doing whatever he wants, because he is himself. He does not pretend to be something he is not.
But at some point, White's antics will get in the way of the UFC's planned international expansion efforts. UFC fans find White's personality charming, but it is grating for people who are used to polished professionals representing sports leagues. They don't want to see a president with an axe to grind. They want to see a president handling himself in a professional manner.
Askren isn't blameless. He is one of the world's very best welterweights, and if he never makes an appearance in the UFC, it will be a shame. It will be even more of a shame if, like Fedor Emelianenko, Askren is kept from fighting the best in the world just because he or his representatives are on White's bad side. Askren likes poking the bear, and it is entertaining. But even more entertaining is the idea of Askren bringing his sublime trash-talking game (and otherworldly wrestling skills) and facing off against Johny Hendricks or Georges St-Pierre.
Or Nick Diaz. Could you imagine, with your human brain, the insanity of that one? I can't. But I sure hope I get a chance to see it.
We won't see it, though. Not unless Askren and White can put aside their differences and work together. The fans will lose. Askren will lose, and White will lose because of his perceived inability to sign another one of the world's top fighters.
He let it happen with Emelianenko; let's all hope he doesn't let it happen with Askren.