Yesterday (August 28, 2014) UFC president Dana White was named to GQ magazine’s “Top 25 Biggest Sleazebags In Sports” list alongside disgraced public figures Donald Sterling and even Jon “War Machine” Koppenhaver.
The basis of GQ’s argument is that White is a sleazebag for his supposedly greedy way of paying fighters, which has long been a hotly debated topic in MMA. Whether or not you believe that White is a true scumbag for his supposed unwillingness to pay fighters, it’s hard to say that he deserves to be on this list next to a proven bigot and a fighter who just got arrested for allegedly beating his former pornstar girlfriend within an inch of her life.
As usual, the truth is probably somewhere in between. Let’s take a look at the evidence that backs up both sides of the story when it comes to labeling White a “sleazebag.”
Obviously Dana White goes about his business much differently that governing officials in other professional sports. He’s not afraid to say what he thinks or feels, and he’s not afraid to get that message across with a healthy dose of f-bombs and other curse words for added affect.
Does that make White a bit controversial and perhaps even unprofessional?
Maybe, but it certainly doesn’t earn him a spot among the top sleazebags in sports.
The issue of fighter pay will most likely be debated for years, and it’s tough to gauge exactly what mid-level fighters who put their bodies on the line on a daily basis are truly worth.
Should they be paid more to fight in the UFC, a job where nothing is guaranteed until you forge a name for yourself with a combination of skill, perseverance, determination, and luck? They probably should, because the UFC is making millions off of their hard work.
Much of the discussion of fighter pay centers around the UFCs standard $8,000 to show/$8,000 to win beginning pay scale, and with fighters’ costs increasing on a daily basis for trainers, nutritionists, and gym time, it’s tough for those fighters still looking to break through to make ends meet, especially if they get injured.
Yet if you take a look below the surface, the UFC does actually pay better than smaller organizations like World Series of Fighting (WSOF), and they certainly pay much more than regional shows.
Fighting professionally is just a tough job, and only the very best are well compensated for putting their health at risk. It may not be fair, and it may or may not change in the near future, but the bottom line is that if fighters show up in shape and fight impressively a few times a year, they should be on their way towards making a good living for themselves.
It tough for fighters like Nate Diaz to demand a pay raise after they’ve had mixed results as of late, because the UFC is simply not going to pay more money to fighters who have lost two out of their last three fights. So instead of focusing on whining about fighter pay, fighters should just focus on winning and the rest will take care of itself.
Looking back at that dynamic, that makes GQ’s argument about White sound a bit flimsy, especially given the outright indiscretions of the other men on the list.
At the heart of the matter, White took a dying sport and transformed it into a worldwide phenomenon, taking it from a highly maligned freak show to a regulated, growing, and exciting production with shows nearly every weekend.
Love him or hate him, you have to respect Dana White for what he’s done for the sport of MMA. Yes, he had the fortunate backing of his childhood friends, Las Vegas casino moguls the Fertitta brothers, but the fact is and always will be that White saved MMA.
It would not be even close to where it is today if he had not been around to rescue it when Senator John McCain called it “human cockfighting.”
And that’s not even taking into account the sickening instances of greed that have plagued other professional sport for years.
There’s no question that White has a polarizing personality that rubs many the wrong way; that much is not on trial. But White was quick to address his inclusion on the dubious list in an interview with UFC.com, noting that the writer was obviously not someone who is educated about the UFC:
“It was definitely written by someone who is uneducated about the sport. I’m sandwiched between War Machine and Lance Armstrong, The thing that’s unfortunate is that it’s unfair for the UFC as a brand. UFC pays its fighters very well.”
Again, a lot of your decision as to whether or not White should be on this list is going to stem from how you feel fighters are paid in the UFC, but factually they obviously do pay more than other fighting promotions.
I’m not saying they shouldn’t earn more, because they should. They grind the axe day in and day out without much promise of a future, all the while supporting families on the hopes of one day making it big.
They deserve more, but the only way to get there is to win, and to win impressively. No one made them step into the cage and fight for a living; that was always their decision.
So with that said, it’s simply unfair, as White stated, to put him on this list aside several notorious sleazebags. White is not perfect and never will be, but when it’s all said and done, he will be looked back upon as the man who saved MMA.
Has he made several decisions for the sake of pure profit?
Definitely, and he will continue to do so. It’s hard to argue that the proposed Ronda Rousey vs. Gina Carano women’s bantamweight title fight is a legitimate one. Rousey has been mowing down all of the top female fighters in the world with ruthless efficiency while Carano has been out of the cage for the past five years trying to build a failing movie career.
Is there anything there that would suggest that fight would be anything more than a one-minute (or less) squash match that ends with “Conviction” splayed out on the canvas? No, there’s not, and it’s a “huge fight” only in the sense that it would sell pay-per-view (PPV) buys.
In that regard, White is selling us an overhyped, one-sided match-up as a legitimate title fight because it would make a ton of money.
Is that a questionable business practice for those in the know? Sure, but it certainly shouldn’t get him a spot on the list of the biggest sleazebags in sports.
There are just too many questionable characters who have left a massively negative mark on their respective game, and not one of them can say that they rescued their sport from pending doom.
White can. He may love the money, but there are just too many sleazebags out there to label him among the worst.