After a night in which UFC president Dana White finally saw the UFC put on a show in his home town of Boston, he reflected on the major talking points of the night with MMAFighting’s Ariel Helwani.
Read the transcript below or scroll down to watch the full interview for yourselves.
First off Dana White was keen to point out that he meant no disrespect to the sport of boxing with his comments in the build-up to this fight.
“Listen, just to make it clear. I dunno how it came off during this whole thing or here in the press conference – no disrespect at all to James Toney or to boxing. You know, boxing is a sport that I love and I have a lot of respect for James – what he’s accomplished in boxing and everything else.”
White admitted after the fight that he had been concerned that Toney may pull off an unlikely upset against the UFC veteran Couture.
“I was nervous going into the fight, but you know what, that’s part of the fun of doing big fights and fight like that. You know, when those two guys get in there, first of all the crowds going crazy, your heart’s beating, your stomach’s turning, you know? That’s the way you should feel when a fight’s going on.”
White then went on to defend Toney’s performance, or lack thereof, by turning back the clock to the first time he himself experienced what an MMA fighter can do while he was an amateur boxer.
“12 years ago now I met a guy called John Lewis, OK, and I had been in boxing since I was 17 years-old. He came over to my gym, and what that guy was able to do to me blew my mind, you know? I know what can happen when you get in there with a mixed martial artist. It’s the day I took a pill in the matrix and it opened my eyes to a whole new world of fighting, and tonight it happened to James Toney.
“It doesn’t matter how great you are on your feet. That’s what makes this sport so great, it’s why all the kids right now are getting into mixed martial arts. Why would you want to learn one thing when you can learn everything?”
Did he have any regrets about promoting the fight he had himself admitted was a ‘freak show’?
“No not at all. The way I look at it is, like I said, James Toney picked a fight and he got one. As James Toney got out there and started chasing me around and all this stuff started happening, you know, I got my finger on the pulse and I get to feel if people want to see a fight or not. People wanted to see this James Toney – Couture fight, People were intrigued by it, people were interested in it. I made sure and built a great card around it because he could have clipped Couture early or Couture could have done what he did tonight, you know, and I don’t ever want the fans to turn the TV off and say, ‘I should have never bought this.'”
The UFC President then went on to confirm that Toney would not be invited back for a second fight in the octagon.
“He’s got an incredible career as a professional boxer and that’s where he should be.”
As for whether he’d put on another ‘boxing Vs MMA’ spectacle, White feels there’s no need to do so.
“The same exact thing will happen,” he replied. “We answered this question back in 1993, and we answered it again here in 2010.”
White also took time to tip his hat to the winner of the fight, Randy Couture.
“The thing I love and respect about Randy Couture is, this was just another challenge for him.”
“There’s a lot of guys who would take a fight like this and go, ‘I know what I’m going to do to this guy and blah, blah, blah. Randy Couture trained hard, he worked on this thing, he had a gameplan, you know what I mean? He’s a true professional.”
And he also confirmed that ‘The Natural’ will now head back down to 205lbs.
“His next fight will be at light-heavyweight against one of the top guys in that division. He’s in the mix.”
Moving on, White stated in no uncertain terms that people should start to give current lightweight champion Frankie Edgar the respect he deserves.
“Your a complete jackass if you do not appreciate what you saw tonight. You know, give this kid his respect. He just fought BJ Penn for the second time. And people doubted he won the first time…nobody can doubt whether he won this time. It was an absolute domination. He hit BJ Penn with big shots, beat him on his feet, beat him on the ground, was able to take him down with big slams. And then BJ Penn would get that top position, almost had the mount, Frankie got out of it. Frankie 100% dominated and destroyed BJ Penn. That means something.”
Some people have been looking down on Edgar for not finishing fights in spectacular fashion as Penn did in his heyday, but White is not one of them.
“I thought he looked incredible. You’ve got to think who they’re doing it to. He just did it to BJ Penn. It’s not like he just did it to some guy you’ve never heard of. He just did that to BJ Penn for five rounds. I think that’s pretty spectacular.”
Next up for Edgar is a fight with Gray Maynard, and White denies that will be a hard fight to promote.
“No reservations whatsover. When you say people say that, I say the media say that. I don’t buy into the media bullsh*t. We’re going to put on a fight, and when Maynard and Frankie fight, people are going to want to see it.”
BJ Penn’s immediate future is less clear, and White himself doesn’t yet have the answers.
I don’t know, I don’t know what’s next for BJ.”
Before the fight Penn had said he wished his relationship with White was better, likely due to less than favorable comments about him in Penn’s recent biography, and the UFC president briefly addressed that in the interview.
“The problems with BJ and I, I didn’t create, so that’s up to BJ. I don’t want to drag it out into the public, it’s not important.”
At the post-fight press conference White claimed that Kenny Florian chokes in big fights, and he went into more detail about that next.
“I don’t know, it’s got to be man. Kenny Florian is so well rounded and so gifted and so nasty, man. You didn’t see any leg kicks tonight, you didn’t see him kicking to the body, you didn’t even see him letting his hands go. Even in the last round when I had him down 2-0 and his corner had to have him down 2-0, he didn’t come out…you thought there would have been a sense of urgency, where he felt, ‘I have to pull off a knockout or a submission to win this fight, and he didn’t go for it at all.”
White then referenced the media attention the event had garnered for the promotion’s first show in Boston.
“It goes to what I was saying earlier about Boston coming out and doing this. Bob Ryan hates MMA. He doesn’t like it at all, yet he was here tonight. He came here tonight in the city of Boston and was open-minded enough to sit through some fights, watched the fight with me, asked a lot of questions, talked to Shaq, you know? Listen, this isn’t going to be everybody’s cup of tea, man. Not everybody’s going to love mixed martial arts, but I have so much respect for the people like Bob Ryan and the many other journalists that were here tonight who came out and gave it a shot and at least put everything aside and came out. Dude, it’s a Saturday night. It’s a Saturday night and there’s a lot of other things they could be doing, but they came out here and gave it a shot.”
Watch the full interview below.