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UFC 71 Media Conference Call with Dana White

May 24, 2007 | Posted by Caleb Newby was invited to take part of the UFC 71 conference call with UFC President Dana White. Please note that this was written in the order of the conversation and may jump from topic to topic. In the interest of getting it to you guys faster, I have just cleaned up my note taking. So goes a conference call.

On to the recap:

– Dana White starts with some short opening remarks. He’s been out of the loop lately and traveling a lot, just got back to Vegas. He opens it up to some questions.

– Sports Illustrated was a dream for Dana, they had never dreamed of making the cover.

– Is interested in the boxing vs. UFC fighter type fights. Floyd Mayweather is a special case, the other guys don’t mean anything to Dana.

Where does the winner of Liddell/Jackson go?

– It is a tough fight for both of them. Rampage has KO power, great wrestler and chin. It is going to be exciting, Rampage isn’t afraid of Liddell. Whoever wins this fight, someone has already challenged the winner, which will be announced Saturday night.

What is next for the UFC to gain mainstream acceptance?

– This is the last nail in the coffin, the media now looks as us as a real sport. The weigh-ins are on ESPN, they are on the cover of Sports Illustrated…

Status of the HBO deal?

– Nothing has been finalized, still negotiating the details

Status of PRIDE?

– That company is such a mess and we are still trying to figure it all out.

How did this mainstream attention come about?

– We have been at the tipping point for awhile and couldn’t be denied any longer. “We’d been kicking boxing and wrestling’s ass.” Billy Joel and Elton John combined didn’t do what we did in Ohio for revenue.

What if Chuck loses?

– As far as Chuck, there will always be new stars if he loses. It depends on how the fight goes, but there could be a 3rd fight between them.

Chuck has become face of the UFC, if he were to retire would that hurt?

– Chuck is a big superstar, he has that Mike Tyson aura. People love to show up to see how fast he will knock people out. Rampage is the only guy to beat him in the last 4 years which makes this fight interesting.

Guys who would be the next face of the UFC?

– Dana was recently asked who the greatest MMA fighter ever was. Replied “It could be Chuck Liddell, he is 2 guys away from cleaning out an entire division. He might be the only fighter in history to ever go back and avenge all his losses.”
– Someone has put out a challenge to the winner of this Liddell/Rampage fight.
– Liddell is a few fights from solidifying his place as the best ever.
– At a time when we were building our business and getting this off the ground, there was no loyalty in the fight business. “There have been 2 handfuls of guys who have been loyal, and Chuck is one of them.”

Boxing champions who get to the top often lose their hunger. How is Chuck handling it?

– Chuck is the rare breed whose picture should be under “fighter” in the dictionary. He loves to fight, he actually likes to train. All the PR and TV and movies eventually catches up to you and kicks you in the nuts. We saw that in his interview in Texas. We have a great relationship with Chuck. We flew out to see how he was doing and took care of him. “It all catches up with you eventually, a lot of the guys who surround you are ‘cling ons’ who don’t give a shit about the fighters and want to get something from him.”

Why is the UFC better than boxing?

– ‘Boxing has a lot of problems, more than one. They have a ton of problems. It is all about the money in boxing. Every decision and everything they do is about money. I don’t talk about money, who gives a shit what the financials of how much everyone is making… I want to talk about the next fight. The problem with sports today is everyone talks about money. I don’t want to talk about money, I want to talk about the fights. We saw something in this sport and the fighters that was amazing and if we got it to the mainstream, people would see it and love it. People come because they are passionate about it.’

What are your thoughts on Terry Martin?

– He is a tough kid. Has a great record. Ivan is a tough guy and is a lot bigger than Terry. Terry isn’t 17-2 for no reason. If Terry wins, he is one of the top dogs in that weight division.

When you were one of 3 guys who bought UFC you said you saw something, what was that?

– We started taking BJJ. I thought the UFC was bullshit, like the rest of the world thought. Then we met the fighters and learned they were educated guys and great athletes and how smart you had to be at the sport. The first UFC event we went to was in New Orleans and we were like “Man, this really is an incredible sport” and it ended up we owned the company and implemented all the things that made this sport great. Vince McMahon creates a guy. In the UFC these guys have their own stories and personalities. Chuck Liddell is an accounting major. Hughes graduated from college. It is refreshing to deal with fighters like those in the UFC.

What in the SI article that caught your attention?

– When we started doing this, we wanted the rest of the world to see this as the amazing incredible sport that it is. One of the dreams is to be written up in Sports Illustrated, the other is being on ESPN. We never dreamed we’d be on the cover. I can’t tell you what it means to us. The story was fantastic and great. Even 6 years ago if you would have saw Chuck on the cover of the magazine he would have been covered in blood. It was a great and educated piece and refreshing.

Is becoming too mainstream a concern?

– You think about all the sports networks, people don’t think of Spike TV as a sports network, or HBO. Spike TV has the best fights on television. Spike will take some of our big caliber fights that are PPV… I believe in giving some of them for free, not like boxing who put a bunch of shitty fights on TV. Is there too much football on TV? Too much baseball? This is a sport. Any time you can put together a great fight, people will tune in.

Have the recent firings at HBO affected the HBO Deal?

– Hasn’t affected the dealings for the UFC and HBO. The hold up is HBO has built a great brand, and so have we… and I want to control the production. I am very confidant that we will come to a deal with HBO.

Congratulations on the signing of Shogun. What is his contract status?

– Obviously Liddell is a few guys away from cleaning out the division, and Shogun is one of them. I don’t even know the contract status of Shogun, I’ve been on the road, I don’t even know my name at this point.

How does the UFC attract such a quality type of athlete?

– These kids start out in martial arts. Martial Arts isn’t cheap. So this means these guys are coming from middle class to upper class families who could afford to go into it. Then you take the other group of guys in the UFC, college wrestlers. If you don’t make it to the Olympics, what else do you do? The UFC is a no-brainer.

Has there been any one fight that pushed the UFC over the edge?

– It has been flying around the country and meeting with sports writers and staying the course, even when losing money. Didn’t do anything crazy to turn it into a spectacle. It’s all about this sport and the athletes.

Regarding Rampage:

– Rampage is a very durable, tough guy with KO power in both hands. He fights to the level of his competition. He didn’t do what everyone expected in his first fight, but he’s shaken off his jitters. He wants to make a lot of money, and he knows how his life will change if he becomes champion.

What do you do now that you’ve gained such mainstream acceptance?

– There is a lot of room to grow, haven’t scratched the surface of how big it can get. We have built this thing so big because it is so infectious. If you go to a live event, you are hooked. We are taking this thing global, there is nothing bigger than the NFL. When there is a Super Bowl, everyone watches it and goes to a party. The NFL can’t do anything outside the U.S. Everyone gets fighting. Two guys in the octagon and get them to fight, it crosses barriers, everyone gets it. In the U.S. in boxing they want to see the Americans beat everyone, the UFC is very international. GSP comes to the octagon to fight an American, the fans love him because of who he is. It is an international sport. We are going to be the first company, that when we do a PPV, it will be a international PPV at the same time.

How important are amateur leagues?

– Very important, as long as they are regulated they are very important to me. These are the small leagues where the fighters will end up in the UFC. This is why we are pushing safety.

Is the UFC too big to go to Louisiana?

– “Hell no!” We are not too big to go anywhere. Most of the big boxing fights are in New Jersey or Las Vegas. What we are doing is traveling this thing all over the country and breaking records. Every time we take it to a new territory, we will be in Detroit, Chicago, New Orleans… we are going everywhere.

Thoughts regarding Chuck and Rampage’s first fight?

– That first round of the tournament Chuck had to fight Overeem, he is huge, has great knees and a great striker. I was worried about him. “Those fuckers at pride rigged it so we have him the first round”. Chuck KOs him, I am thinking that’s it baby, we got this thing. I wasn’t worried about Rampage at all. I was just worried that we could get Jackson out fast enough to avoid injuries. Then they start fighting and I was like “What the hell is happening?” I should have looked at him seriously. Did you see when he picked Arona up over his head and slammed him.

Can you give more details on PRIDE?

– “It is gonna happen. We are getting it in order. I always do what I say I am gonna do. I’ll get it done, one way or another we’ll get this thing in order. No matter what we will see the top guys fighting the top guys.”

Thoughts regarding Karo and Burkman:

– Karo is incredibly talented. When is the last time you saw him in a fight that sucked? Never. Beating Burkman will be a big step for him. If Burkman beats Karo, he is the real deal. This is a great fight for that division, I think his fight with Diego was fight of the year.

What about Diego?

– I haven’t told this to the media before now. Leading up to that fight, we were going to announce Diego’s retirement at the weigh-ins that day, he had hepatitis C. On Friday he had gone through this extensive testing and didn’t have it… but the doctors didn’t know what it was. The day after the fight, he had a hole in his thigh the size of a coffee cup. He had a staph infection. That’s what happened. It will be interesting to see Diego’s next fight back.

Thoughts on GSP vs. Koscheck

– Koscheck has been working on his game and is one of the most talented guys out there. In GSP’s past he has walked right through wrestlers. GSP is one of the most gifted, talented athletes in this sport. After watching the Serra fight, I question GSP’s mental ability to fight. I think that GSP needs to work on his mental game, his physical game is second to none.

Regarding fighter’s records:

– In the boxing days you had to be 39-0 and if you lost, you sucked. Oscar De La Hoya hasn’t won a meaningful fight in 4 years, he is the only guy I have seen pull that off. I think that is where the fans have gone. At the end of the day, that is what is different with the UFC, “I want to win and I want to win impressively,” not “I want to dry hump him for 3 rounds.”

– You still have to go with the winner for the title shot, even if he wins a slow and boring fight over another guy who lost a war. The worst show we have ever had was UFC 33, it was a nightmare. We’ve been lucky, each show is amazing. ‘Excuse me, but I am going to rant on something.’ Boxing is in trouble for one reason and one reason only, greed. That’s the reason boxing is in trouble. Everyone thought Mayweather would beat Oscar. Oscar was the promoter. His career after boxing is a fight promoter. People wondered if this fight could save boxing. “HELL NO! This couldn’t be the fight to save boxing.” Oscar should have stacked the undercard, instead of pocketing the money himself. “They won’t do that because they are too fucking greedy.” They could have done more buys with the undercard guys in the future.

Regarding Sports Illustrated:

– Me and Lorenzo walked around with copies of Sports Illustrated in our hands all day. ‘I’m not shitting you. It was seriously one of the greatest moments of my life.’

What did you think when GSP lost to Matt Serra?

– I was shocked. As soon as the fights are done, I am supposed to jump up and put it on the guy right away. I sat there for 5 minutes in shock.

– Serra was awesome on the Late Show the other night, he has personality. His story is a real Rocky story. I never worry about who wins a fight and say “GOD! We need GSP to win this fight.” I’ve learned the hard way that whoever wins a fight, wins.

– The first face of the UFC since we owned it was Tito.

– A lot of the boxing guys can’t do the PR our guys can do. They can’t talk as well… one of the great things we have is we have a brand. The UFC is a great powerful brand and we build stars. Boxing lives fight to fight. I used to be in the office all the time, now I am never here. I had a staff meeting the other day and people were introducing themselves to me. I am building the brand/building the future. The nuts and bolts are done in the office. I can’t even tell you how many places I’ve been in the last month

Regarding the reported PRIDE lawsuit brought by the fighters:

– These guys (DSE) are out of business for a reason. I don’t know how true that lawsuit is, I just heard about it yesterday, I am going to get into it today. All the best guys will be fighting the best guys. I don’t think the deal is in a spot where it could fall apart.

Would you take out elbows to reduce cuts?

– Blood is always going to be a part of it. No. People need to learn the truth about things, such as ‘boxing gloves are safer than our gloves.’ The bigger gloves are more dangerous so guys can’t break their hands, so they created a weapon so you can hit the other guy harder and more times without breaking your hand. Even once we educate more people on the sport, there will always be non fight fans out there.

Why has GSP taken that step back?

– I have no clue. Maybe it was that thing it was his first shot at the title he choked, then came back, so now he has had his first defense, maybe he will come back. The only kink in his armor is his head.

Rampage was questioning the timing of the fight, saying he would have preferred to do it later, thoughts?

– Quinton… to know him… he beat Chuck Liddell already, he fought the best fighters in the world, he is one of the best fighters in the world… there is no better time than right now.

When will you be coming to the East Coast?

– New Jersey in October or November

Schedule for TUF 6

– Start shooting June 9th. Currently in the drug testing and background testing. It will be 16 welterweights.

What is the status of Fedor?

– At the end of the day, we are gonna get them all. They will all be fighting with us. I don’t know if it is true or not true. But you get these managers and agents involved… we will get it straightened out.

Regarding PRIDE:

– They weren’t running a real business. That thing is a mess, it is gonna take a little while to fix it. Still want to get it running on Japanese television as its own entity.

Cities to target?

– Pushing hard in Chicago, Detroit. New Jersey, New York. We are going to hit them all, all the major cities.

At this point the call turned more into a free flowing conversation running many subjects together

– At the end of the day, these guys are all poping up out of the woodwork, all of these television executives need to see what the right fit it. K-1 comes in saying they are going to sell 100,000 seats in CA? They can’t sell out a ballroom in Vegas. They couldn’t give out 100,000. Everytime they come to Vegas, they give away tickets.
– Vince says the UFC will burn out. I respect Vince. He’s been doing it forever. I have nothing bad to say about him. “We are a sport Vince.” He just doesn’t know about sports. I respect what he does. This is a real sport, there is a big difference. Maybe when his wrestlers are acting to much it burns out, but when you put on good fights that people want to see, people will watch.
– I knew the Mayweather fight would be huge, I didn’t think they’d reach 2 million. De La Hoya is the man, he sells Pay-Per-Views.
– I say this every year. Every year we take this thing to a new level. Wait till you see what we do this year, we have some cool things we are working on.
– We want to see the WEC do all the weight classes we don’t do in the UFC
– Do you have any idea how many people die each year in high school football, but we never hear about it. Do you have any idea how many people die playing Polo? People don’t even think about it. Nobody in any sports franchise anywhere is more safety conscious than us… because these guys are my friends, not because we are “the most dangerous sport” out there.
– Regarding the Don Frye/James Thompson fight: “Thank god we own this company now.” We are pushing out into all these other states now. But we still have things like “this Kimo fight… Kimbo… whatever the fuck his name is” going on still.
– We are working with the athletic commissions right now for the judges to train in workshops.

Regarding Roger Huerta and Hispanic fans:

– The Hispanic market was a no brainer. I think at the end of the day, Hispanics are fight fans more than boxing fans. They get behind their own people. Get a good looking Spanish kid who can fight and they will get behind him. We are just tapping into that market now.
– We want to have a show in Mexico by the beginning or middle of 08′.

Feelings on Tito Ortiz?

– I am over it. You saw my side of the story. Tito knows what happened. Him and Jenna can run around and say what they want.

Can Tito get the title?

– A couple months ago I would have said that Matt Serra couldn’t beat GSP.

Tito says that you won’t give him a title shot anymore now…

– “Tito is such a pussy. Show up and fight and do what you are supposed to do. Shut up and fight Rashad Evans and beat him. He is always crying about something. Do you ever year me saying anything about Tito?”

Washington DC, we almost did it recently. Something happened, but we were just going to come there, but we were coming. We are doing 30 something fights a year. It was going to be the one

Wanderlei Silva what are your plans for him?

– We have to bring Wanderlei in and give him a fight…

Thoughts regarding the IFL?

– Doesn’t phase me one bit. The concept… I’ve said it a million times. Team Tennis doesn’t work, team fighting doesn’t work. “They have like the Woodchucks vs. the Crazy Beavers, is that what you want to see? They same guys fight each other over and over again. It is a retarded concept.” It is bad MMA getting on television.

Regarding getting the fighters close to the fans at events:

– When you show up to a UFC event, you will get your stuff signed and pictures taken. That is part of the big appeal.

Status of Brandon Vera:

– He is with us and will be with us. Nobody wants to fight for the IFL, who the hell is clamoring to fight in the IFL. And what is this Pro Elite with the K-1? The show isn’t going to even happen.

Will the winner of Koscheck/GSP be a number one contenders match or will they be fighting in the meantime?

– It will be a number one contenders bout. The winner most likely won’t have to fight before a title shot against the winner of Hughes/Serra

You’ve mentioned wanting to bring in knees to the head of a grounded opponent, what is the status of that?

– That is in the long term plan, we are focused now on becoming regulated with our current rule set in the country.

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Caleb Newby
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