Just a few days out from the huge UFC 116: Lesnar Vs Carwin event Dana White has begun to crank up the UFC PR machine and embark on a whirlwind media tour.
One of the most interesting stop on that tour yesterday was on Fan 106.7’s ‘MMA Nation‘ hosted by Bloody Elbow’s Luke Thomas. White had recently called out Thomas on twitter in what turned out to be a case of mistaken identity, and by way of apology he agreed to appear on the show.
The wide-ranging fifteen minute interview included some surprising statements from the UFC president on a few the major fighters currently outwith his promotion, and even one who he only recently signed himself.
Read on for the highlights of their conversation.
On Fedor Emelianenko:
“I believe that if we would have been able to take him into the UFC last year, or even right before this loss, and promoted him properly, we could have done big, big business. Now I have no interest in him. Zero. I didn’t think he was great before. It was the media. As soon as he lost, my phone started blowing up and it was media guys being like, ‘what do you think about him losing?’ What do you mean what do I think about him losing? Did you guys hear me saying he was great ever? It was the exact opposite.
“Like I said earlier, they had 400 thousand people who watched that fight. We did a taped event on Spike TV, versus his live event, and we had 1.5 million viewers. I mean, 400 thousand viewers. The Strikeforce event before this one did 165 thousand viewers. More people watch my video blogs than watched that fight.”
On Whether Fedor Should Have Been No.1 in The Rankings:
“Whatever these websites put out there doesn’t mean jack. You know how you find out who the best guy in the world is? It’s the guy who fights the very best three times a year. That’s who the best is. Should Fedor have been ranked in the top ten in the heavyweight division? Absolutely. But not the top of the heap. I wouldn’t even put him in the top five right now because he hasn’t fought anybody since 2005. Where does beating Brett Rogers get you? Where does beating Andrei Arlovski get you? If he had beaten Fabricio Werdum last weekend, where does that get you? Where does beating those type of guys get you? Nowhere.
“Imagine him coming to the UFC’s heavyweight division. He’d have to fight guys like Gabriel Gonzaga, Junior dos Santos, Cain Velasquez, Brock Lesnar, and Shane Carwin. You got to get through some nasty, nasty guys in the UFC. And the fighters I just mentioned are fighting those type of guys three times a year. They’re the best heavyweights in the world.”
On James Toney:
“It’s a freak show. I said I’d never put on a freak show fight and I’m doing it. Listen, this guy [Toney] chased me around the country saying bad things about the sport. If he wants to get his ass whooped, I’m gonna let him. You want me to tell you, ‘James Toney vs. Randy Couture is gonna be the greatest fight in the history of the sport?’ No. I’m building a great card around this fight. You’re not buying the James Toney vs. Randy Couture fight alone.
“Here’s what I expect; the bell rings, they come to the center of the Octagon, circle each other for a little bit, Randy double legs him, puts him against the fence, squashes his head and the fight is over. But I’m not delusional. We started filming the UFC 118 Countdown show, and as fat as James Toney is, all the guys working on the show say his hands are like lightning, they’re so fast. You can’t disrespect the guy for what he’s accomplished in his career. He could catch Randy and knock him out. Everybody has a puncher’s chance. God forbid.”
On Alistair Overeem:
“Alistair Overeem is gonna be the new guy? Alistair Overeem got knocked out by Chuck Liddell at 205. You know what’s funny? Because we don’t have him signed he’ll be the new guy. The guy that Chuck knocked out at 205. All the UFC haters will be like, ‘oh yeah, this guy is the best.’ And all the idiot websites will rank him the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world.”
On The Recent Death Of An MMA Fighter In A Smaller Show:
“Here’s the deal. Everybody thinks that I’m a hater and that I’m trying to control everything. No. The reality is that if you can’t afford to do the proper medical testing of your fighters, you have no business being in the fight business. That’s what’s wrong with these smaller promotions. The UFC has saved people’s lives. There have been young kids who come and try out for The Ultimate Fighter who we find out have brain aneurisms. Anybody could have a brain aneurism. You could have one, I could have one. It’s not from fighting. But you have to detect that and be able to get it taken care of. Thiago Alves had one and we took care of that.
“Think about this; since the UFC started back in 1993, 63 kids have died playing high school football. You don’t hear about that in the newspapers every day. You don’t’ hear about people running around trying to ban football. There has never been a death in the UFC since 1993. These smaller promotions can’t afford to do the proper medical testing. And if they can’t afford to do it, they shouldn’t be doing fights.”
So there was some interesting comments in their to digest here. It’s not surprising that White has looked to dismiss Fedor Emelianenko considering their frosty relationship and his failure to succeed in signing him to the UFC. Having said that if Fedor does avenge his loss convincingly on the final fight of his contract with Strikeforce and is then offered to the UFC, I don’t think he will be able to resist bringing him on-board if the terms were right despite what he’s saying now.
I’m more surprised at his criticism of Alistair Overeem though. White has shown significant interest in the current strikeforce heavyweight champion before, and Overeem himself has appeared to leave the door open for a potential move to the UFC at some stage. Dana made the mistake of being overly critical of Fedor which appeared to make negotiations with the Russian more difficult than they might otherwise have been, and it seems strange to head down the same road with Overeem.
I give credit to White for essentially holding his hands up and essentially admitting he made a mistake by signing James Toney. I don’t recall the last time that he so openly admitted that he’ll be rooting against a fighter signed to his promotion though. No doubt Toney won’t be short of things to say once he finds out that White has put him on blast, and if he does somehow end up defeating Couture at UFC 118, rest assured he’ll never hear the end of it!