Dana White: the Unreasonable Man
Irish socialist George Bernard Shaw once wrote that "all progress depends on the unreasonable man." He had realised that whilst reasonable men adapted to the world, unreasonable men adapted the world to them. In modern Mixed Martial Arts, Dana White is that unreasonable man.
A brash, abrasive assault on the senses, he laces even the most formal of speeches with obscenities and is rarely seen far from his staple wardrobe of T-shirt and jeans. The antipathy of a conventional company president, he possesses an encompassing control of the UFC unlike any other in professional sports.
An egotistical, extreme micro-manager who attacks even the most unsubstantial of opponents with unremitting vigour. The driving force behind the increased popularity and acceptance of Mixed Martial Arts.
Dana White entered the UFC in his current capacity in the early months of 2001. Financed by his childhood friends, Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta, the Zuffa group purchased the failing company for two million dollars.
White was installed as President. In the years that followed, via a couple of Ultimate Fighters, Chuck Liddell and increased regulations, the UFC has experienced unprecedented growth.
UFC 30 had a live gate of around 3,000 with no PPV package. UFC 97 had a live gate of 21,451 with PPV figures reaching high into the hundreds of thousands. The stigma of MMA has been lifted and the sport legitimised.
It is clear, therefore, that the job of UFC President has changed completely from what it was at the turn of the century . The question is should White have changed with it?
On Nov. 20, 2008, top welterweight contender John Fitch was released from the UFC. He had refused to sign a lifetime agreement that would allow the UFC sole possession of his likeness and imaging rights for any subsequent video game they produced.
White warned that any other dissenters would meet the same fate and went so far as to threaten the careers of all other members of the American Kickboxing Academy. Fitch was forced to yield just twenty four hours later, signed the contract, and was promptly reinstated.
White's ego appears to be the driving force behind the majority of his decisions. His video blogs are becoming increasingly self indulgent.
The rant against Sherdog reporter Loretta Hunt exhibited each of the many alienating fragments of White's personality. Sitting in a hotel room, surrounded by friends, a camera positioned to his left, White exploded into a tirade three minutes in length.
He insulted the intelligence and integrity of the reporter and the credibility and sexuality of her unnamed source. The instant backlash over the video forced White to perform an apologetic piece just a day later in which the accusations of homophobia and sexism were met with the standard response of denial: "I am actually a supporter of many of their issues."
Much of the furore centred around the use of three particularly offensive words (one for a cat, one for a dog, and one for a piece of wood), but the truly shocking aspect of the piece is the level of unprofessionalism White displays. MMA is growing at an extraordinarily fast rate. One day it may elicit the same media coverage as Baseball or American Football. Between ranting and apologizing, White would have little time for work.
That is not to say that White's lack of formality is a completely negative aspect of his govern. The passion and drive that he clearly feels for the sport have enabled it to develop quicker than it otherwise might have.
The lack of an official ranking system (although not perfect) also means that fights that fans want to see, such as the proposed bout between Anderson Silva and Forest Griffin, are readily made available. But the fact remains that at some point White must begin to act in a manner befitting the public face of a billion-dollar industry
Dana White is what George Bernard Shaw would have described as 'an unreasonable man.' Indeed, it is this unreasonable nature that has allowed White to lead the UFC from the doldrums of novelty and obscurity into a position of million-plus PPV figures and video games. A little more tact however, may be required to continue that progression.
(In the extremely unlikely event that Dana White should read this: I am British, Caucasian, and straight. Do your worst!)