Whitewash: For the UFC to Reach the Next Level, Dana Needs to Clean Up His Act

By Raphael Garcia

Imagine this scenario: A conference room with three chairs facing a single chair on the opposite side of the table. Seated in that trio of chairs are three of the most powerful individuals in sports: NBA Commissioner David Stern, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, and MLB Commissioner Bud Selig. On the opposite side is a person who would love to be considered among their equals when it comes to sports and the development of his organization: UFC President Dana White. Imagine a scenario in which Goodell, Selig, and Stern would be giving White an evaluation before allowing him and mixed martial arts the proverbial “seat at the big kids table” of sports. What would they say?

As the corporate faces of their respective sporting organizations, each of these personalities have had to deal with major controversies: Major League Baseball had its issues with steroids, the National Basketball Association had problems with a rogue referee and point shaving, and the National Football League is dealing with replacement referees that are causing uproar. In each situation, Selig, Stern, and Goodell have managed to deal with these crises in their own distinct but effective manners. Never once have we seen them go out and lay waste to an important individual who is a part of their organization, even when they had the right to do so.

David Stern had every opportunity to throw Tim Donaghy under the bus for betting on games. However, he didn’t, instead opting to quickly remove him from his position, speak very little about his actions, and let the court handle the rogue ref. Goodell is in the same position as he has officials that are blowing calls left and right. Instead of going off about how they “suck” or “shouldn’t be referees,” Goodell has continued to preach to the NFL fan base that everything is being done to conserve the integrity of the game they love. How do you think Dana White would have reacted if he was in charge of the officiating crew that blew the call at the end of the Green Bay Packers vs. Seattle Seahawks game last Monday? Let’s just say the post-game press conference would not have been good in any sense.

All of these commissioners have had to deal with letdowns by the biggest athletes in their sports. Arrests, rape accusations, and failed drug tests have marred all of these professional sports. However, we’ve never seen them publicly castigate an athlete like White has done in the past. They know that it isn’t good business to do so, as that individual is a major cash cow for them in some way or another. While they may have admonished said individuals behind closed doors or even imposed suspensions, you would be hard pressed to find a situation in which one of these commissioners levied an all out verbal assault on the athletes within their organizations.

White, on the other hand, often utilizes a verbal whip that has the potential to do just as much harm to the UFC as it does to the individual fighter. He even turns his anger towards the fans. Could you imagine Roger Goodell or David Stern calling fans “morons” and saying they don’t want their money? Exactly, they would never do such a thing. Turning those who draw his ire into public outcasts can hurt their drawing power if fans truly do begin to dislike these fighters due to his words. In addition, White opens himself up to criticism and accusations of favoritism when he doesn’t react the same way to similar situations. Release Nate Marquardt but keep Alistair Overeem? Publicly fire Miguel Torres, but defend Forrest Griffin? Blame Jon Jones but fail to blame Jose Aldo? Each of these situations illustrate the contrast with commissioners of other leagues, who would not have acted in the same way, but would have instead privately taken action – after contemplation and deliberation – to ensure that the response was viewed as reasonable, fair, and legitimate.

Dana White has been a blessing to mixed martial arts. Without his leadership the UFC would have gone under, and the sport would have been legislated out of existence. His fiery attitude is attributed to him being as much of a fan of the sport as he is a promoter, which is a fantastic quality to have. However, in order for the sport to continue to grow and be considered capable of leapfrogging hockey and boxing as a major sport in the United States and beyond, he has to rein in his reactions to serious situations, and handle them as an “emotionless” commissioner would. Only then will he and MMA as a whole be able to join the “big kids of sports.”

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