UFC President Dana White’s pay-per-view show this past Saturday did a reported 700,000 buys even in the midst of a pandemic and a very uncertain economy, and even lacking what normally would be seen as top-level draws for the sport.
White told The Athletic’s Pug and Copp Boxing Show that he has “opened the flood gates” for sports to return, and also touched on various other topics to do with boxing.
As usual, White was quick to stress that boxing has major issues, citing his research into the sport during his as-yet undelivered promise of Zuffa Boxing.
“I’ve been diving headfirst into the whole boxing thing for the last two years, going through all the, you know, the problems, and they had big problems before the pandemic. They have even bigger problems now,” he said.
White continued with the same criticisms that have been lobbed for decades now.
“The thing is just so fragmented, nobody wants to work together. When this pandemic is over, the strongest will survive in this thing, and I don’t know who it’s gonna be,” he offered.
This is not entirely the reality of the sport of boxing right now, as promoters actually have worked together without a huge amount of trouble in recent times. Top Rank and Premier Boxing Champions worked together on Wilder-Fury 2, which Bob Arum believes will open the door for more cooperation between the two sides.
Top Rank has also worked easily with Matchroom Boxing, Matchroom and Golden Boy work together without any trouble, Golden Boy has sent fighters over for Top Rank shows, Matchroom and PBC have worked together. We’re talking about cooperation here between the clear “big four” promotional outfits in the sport. There really hasn’t been the level of trouble there used to be, and the Wilder-Fury thing, which also brought FOX and ESPN together for a co-promotion, may have really been a huge step.
But time will tell, and White could also be right, of course; these icy relationships have thawed before only to freeze solid again and rob fans of matchups that would be good for everyone involved.
White’s main man in boxing, for the moment, appears to be Matchroom promoter Eddie Hearn.
“Al Haymon is a brilliant guy. I like Al a lot, he’s brilliant. But the guy who, to me, is in a position of serious strength right now is Eddie Hearn,” White said. “Eddie Hearn has some of the top guys in the world, putting on these big heavyweight fights. And I think Eddie Hearn’s doing it right. I think Eddie Hearn’s doing it right. I think when Eddie Hearn puts on a fight, Eddie Hearn actually makes money. A lot of these other guys aren’t making money.”
White continued in his praise of Hearn, calling the British second generation promoter “level-headed” and “smooth,” which White admits he — like other fight promoters — really isn’t most of the time.
“In this business, everybody hates everybody. And I’m not pointing the finger at all these other guys, I’m accusing myself of the same thing,” he said. “We all hate each other, we’re always all fighting and talking shit about each other. Eddie Hearn doesn’t play that game.”
White was also asked about two of his consistent rivals, Showtime Sports boss Stephen Espinoza and Golden Boy’s Oscar De La Hoya.
To say he didn’t mince words would be an understatement.
“They’re creeps! They’re both creepy human beings. Espinoza’s a little creep, and De La Hoya, Jesus — I don’t even know how anybody takes Oscar seriously anymore,” he said. “You know, he came out with that tweet the other day, and I’m, like, I’m not even gonna respond to this. The guy is fuckin’ bat shit nuts.”
Espinoza also created a stir this past weekend with some comments about UFC fighters and the UFC 249 situation:
It's because they were required to sign a document which says that they can lose their whole purse and bonuses if they say anything negative about the COVID protocols. https://t.co/97v9ZduOxF— Stephen Espinoza (@StephenEspinoza) May 9, 2020
“What’s Espinoza know about fuckin’ anything over here?” White asked. “And what do you give a shit what we’re doing, Espinoza? That’s number one and number two. And number three, he’s talking about a disparagement clause. The fighters can say whatever they want. As long as it’s true! Does he not know what disparagement means? Didn’t that creepy little fucker go to law school?”
Bob Arum, of course, has also been consistently critical of UFC, but of White in particular recently, saying the MMA promoter was being too flippant about trying to promote events too soon. To White, Arum’s bashing is nothing new.
“This guy’s been talking shit about me and the UFC for 20 years,” he said. “Bob, really? We’re gonna fail now? We’re failing again? It’s the fuckin’ don’t throw rocks when you live in a fuckin’ glass house. You talk about failing? You’re on the fuckin’ brink of failure, and you’re talking about us failing.”
As usual, White was an open book, speaking honestly and confidently about what he really believes. Whether you agree with him or not is another matter entirely, but he said what he said, and he meant it.