(Dan Brooks is our guestblogger of the month for September. If you enjoy his work don’t forget to check out his site, Combat Blog. It’s got more amusing political observations than you can shake a stick at!)
We all know fighting is truth. In contrast to subjective, bullshit-driven sports like gymnastics or marriage, there is no weaseling in MMA: two people exert force on each other, and the one who does it better smashes the face of the one who did it wrong. Maybe that’s why Dana White has found such success cultivating his reputation for candor. He’s a straight shooter who calls it like it is—sometimes, paradoxically, by saying it like it isn’t, as he does in the above clip.
It’s subtle, but White might be stretching the boundaries of plain talk there. And I quote:
“Greg Jackson is the one who told him, ‘If you take this fight, it will be the biggest mistake you’ve ever made in your whole career.’ I laugh every time I say it. That’s no disrespect to Chael Sonnen, but that’s the most insane thing I’ve ever heard in my life.”
You will notice in the video that White is not laughing this particular time he says it. Equally implausible is his claim that Jackson’s advice was the most insane thing he has ever heard; just to name one example, he recently heard Tim Sylvia say he could compete in the UFC heavyweight division. So maybe White is exaggerating a little bit.
He is a promoter, after all, and the job of the promoter is to tell us things are historic and mind-blowing even when they possibly are not. Yet, as the UFC increasingly comes to resemble Major League Baseball, White functions as a sort of commissioner, too. Therein lies the problem.
Unlike Don King or Bob Arum, White occupies a position of leadership in the sport. Zuffa is not the same thing as MMA, but it’s close. The organization promotes fights, but it also controls enough of the market to potentially demote fighters—as Josh Barnett and recently Jones will attest.
Fans know it, and so we expect White to be fair. That puts him in a tough position: as the public spokesman for what is rapidly becoming the world MMA league, he must deal honestly with fighters and reporters to protect the sport. As a promoter, however, he must disseminate as many lies per second as he can.
Hence the hyperbole. When White calls Maynard v. Guida one of the worst fights he’s ever seen or says Jones’s refusal to fight Sonnen on a week’s notice is “insane,” he preserves his reputation as a straight shooter while simultaneously making normal events sound fantastic. It’s a neat trick. It’s also maybe dishonest—especially from the man in charge of dozens of athletes in a growing sport. For a fight promoter, though, it’s all in a day’s work.