Photo by Esther Lin/MMA Fighting
Dana White has "no regrets" with the exception of one as UFC President. White opens up about the things that make him the proudest, as well as the shortcomings that have pushed him to become one of the hardest working promoters in all of professional sports.
Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) President Dana White is one of the most polarizing figures in all of professional sports. You either love him or hate him. There are those who would argue he was the savior of the UFC, while others would say he's held back the entire sport of mixed martial arts (MMA).
Regardless of which side of the fence you sit, if you're an MMA fan, you know who White is, and you have an opinion of him (probably a strong one).
That's fine, because White probably has an opinion about you, too. He has an opinion about a lot of things, and sometimes those opinions get the fiery promoter in hot water.
The embattled frontman has had notable squabbles with fighters in his own organization. He's gone to war with boxing promoters. He's even called out television networks and the people who work for them.
But of all the people he's offended, of all the insults he's hurled, there was one moment in time that he still, to this day, wishes he could take back.
In 2009, White released one of his infamous video blogs. In this particular blog, White voiced some strong, negative feelings that he had for a certain female reporter with whom he'd had a disagreement.
As he often does, White became heated, and, in the middle of a profanity-laced tirade, he tossed out a homosexual slur. It's something for which he took an incredible amount of heat. According to White, it's also the only thing he's done in 12 years as the UFC President that he regrets:
"You guys have to understand this, but this is the way I am. I have no regrets. The only thing that I regret is in that video blog when I used the 'F word.' That's the only thing throughout the 12 years of running the UFC. The way I came off in that thing, people still think I'm some kind of homophobe, and I'm not. That still bothers me."
It's not the first time White has made an attempt to reach out to the gay community. A year ago, White stated publicly that if there were gay fighters in the UFC, he wishes they would come out, and that he'd welcome them with open arms.
During an interview with FUEL TV's Ariel Helwani, White discussed other multiple sore spots and sources of irritation, but he also spoke about some of the positive accomplishments that have taken place during his time at the helm of the biggest MMA promotion on the planet.
"There are a lot of things I'm really proud of. We've revolutionized the fight business. We've done things in the fight business that nobody has ever done in the history of combat sports, including health insurance for fighters. We're tweaking and fixing things. It seems like every way you turn, someone is waiting for you to fail. I tell you what: they'll be waiting a long time for this one to fail."
Continuing along the lines of "tweaking things," White spoke about the recent change of formats for the reality TV show "The Ultimate Fighter" (TUF), and, subsequently, a change back to the way things were in the first place.
He acknowledged that the live season of TUF just didn't live up to expectations, but he hasn't given up on making it work, one day. He acknowledges that playing with the format was a risk, but he also will be quick to tell you that he is in the risk taking business:
"No, it's not a make or break year. There are some things that we all did wrong. And we need to fix them. It's all part of running a business. The thing about us is we're not afraid of taking risks. If we were, we wouldn't be sitting here right now. This whole business has been a risk since day one."
White went on to talk about this current season of TUF, which is somewhat of a sensitive subject, given his rocky relationship with coach, Roy Nelson.
To no one's surprise, things between he and "Big Country" have not gone smoothly. White even went so far as to say that Nelson is the toughest TUF coach he's ever had to work with:
"It hasn't been good. It's a nuisance. I don't know if it's good TV. In the end of the day, what people have to understand is it's not about good TV. ‘The Ultimate Fighter' is about finding the best guys to bring to the UFC. We pick these coaches because we believe they have something to offer, not just in training, but in knowledge and experience and all the other things that come along with the guys who we pick as coaches.
Let's see how it ends. It ain't over yet. He's by far the toughest coach I've had to deal with. Ultimately it's my decision to choose him as a coach, but everyone gets together and talks it over and we agreed on it."
It's hard to imagine the UFC without Dana White. In a lot of ways, the promotion's identity has been shaped during his time as the man in charge.
It's difficult to say how things will play out when he finally steps away, but that's not something he thinks about, and it's probably not going to happen any time soon:
"I'm 43. People ask me that question like I'm 73. I'm probably 73 in UFC years. Regardless of my age, there're a lot of things that need to be done. I believe me and the Fertittas and our crew at Zuffa have built a pretty awesome road map and game plan of where this thing is going to go. Now it needs to be executed and needs to be done. We're going into all these countries, but I don't really want to talk about them now. This thing is nowhere near where it's going to be. Every day I go to work and I know what has to be done, but it's the stupid stuff that happens that I have to deal with that takes you off track and you maybe get to spend two hours dealing with the stuff you have to do. It's all the BS and the fires that come up."
As the MMA world continues to turn, it's White who spins the globe. He's the man behind the curtain.
And, he still has regret-free work to do.