Dana White :: The EDGE Interview

by Jesus Echezuria

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Wednesday May 27, 2009

There's an old adage that says, "Whatever happens in Vegas stays in Vegas". That didn't hold true for Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) President Dana White when he included an anti-gay slur in a April 1 YouTube tirade against Sherdog sportswriter Loretta Hunt; the controversy ricocheted from coast to coast.

For his part, White claims the media firestorm left him at a loss for words. But it didn't last; when EDGE reached out to White to see if he would candidly talk about his outburst, he was eager to chat.

EDGE - Dana, thank you for taking the time to sit down with us and chat today.

Not a problem, thanks for giving us the opportunity. Let's do this!

EDGE - Dana, so much has been made of the incident and the events subsequent to it. Everyone knows what was said and the subsequent apology. Do you think your use of the slur in the blog has caused many people to overlook the initial intention of the message?

I don't think so. I mean it was with the mainstream media but the message got through to the hardcore fans and the people who follow the UFC. It wasn't about homophobia and it wasn't about me being anti-gay, anti-mentally handicapped, anti-woman or anti-anything like that. It was about a reporter, who wrote a story that from the first word to the last word was full of lies. And was it that big of a deal? Was it that crazy? No, I was sick of her; she does stuff like this all the time ... and this isn't 1986 anymore where the media can say whatever they want and there's no rebuttal. We live in a different world now man - it's like that E60 piece ESPN did on me. You know how many fans have come up to me and said what a crock of shit that piece was. No matter how bad the media tried to attack me on it they did it because I went after one of their own!

EDGE -Were you aware of the significance of the insult/slur?

Well, I knew exactly what I was saying. I have said that word since I was a kid. I'm 39 years old and I used to say that word joking around, and calling names, as a kid. But did I know the significance of word in the gay and lesbian community and how strongly it offended them? No, I didn't! Had I known it was that bad of word [sic] to the gay community, I would have never said that! Listen - I have gay friends, I have gay employees who work for me and I have gay business partners and I have nothing against the gay community and the one thing I want everyone to know is that if I did have a problem with the gay community I wouldn't be apologizing and I wouldn't be backing down, I would be going head to head with them if that's the way I felt about it.

You know, what really pissed me off about it is when people called me a homophobe. I mean when someone calls you something you're not, that's hard. It's not like someone calling you an asshole or a dickhead. If someone calls you a homophobe or a racist or a child molester or anything bad like that, and you're not, it fucking pisses you off!

EDGE: The initial statement was made during one of your blogs. You chose to apologize through a subsequent video blog, as opposed to going through a major media outlet, such as ESPN, CNN, etc. Why?

Here's the thing: when this thing came out, all the media outlets came after me. CNN, ESPN, you name it, I mean even ones that don't cover the UFC, all the majors started calling and wanting interviews. But I'm not going to go out and have the media be the middle man to the people I offended. I usually talk to the fans through the video blog and that's how I was going to do it. And then after I did the blog, I went directly to The Advocate and talked directly to the people I offended, and that's also why I'm talking directly to you guys right now. You know, fuck the rest of the media! Did I offend them? No! It's just great headline to them.

EDGE - Subsequent to the incident and the apology has the UFC been more proactive in reaching out to the GBLT community?

Here's the crazy part, we've been trying to reach out to the gay and lesbian community forever. It seemed like they didn't really want to talk to me until this happened. I mean, ever since we first bought this company we were reaching out. We actually did a huge layout for Flaunt magazine with all the fighters. I felt that the gay and lesbian media should be covering us just like everyone else because I knew for a fact a lot of gay and lesbian people loved the product and I didn't understand why we didn't have more requests from leading gay and lesbian publications and websites for interviews.

EDGE - The UFC is being televised in many gay bars and lounges and seems to be growing in popularity within the community. Are you aware of the extent the community has been embracing the product?

Yeah but again I don't look at it that way. I don't single anyone out and go after anyone in particular. I go after one group: fight fans. I couldn't give you actual numbers of how many African Americans or how many Hispanics or how many Gays and Lesbians watch. I'm just going after human beings, man.

EDGE -What are your thoughts on gay marriage?

I was just saying how fucking ridiculous it is that the government can tell people who they can and can't marry! I mean I'm not going to run around and start telling everyone, "I'm the biggest gay activist on earth," but I don't disagree with any of the gay issues and I don't disagree with gay marriage or anything like that. And I'm telling you guys right now, at Zuffa [UFC's parent company] if you work for my company, and you're married, you can both get health benefits. I don't care who you're married to. If it's a man and a woman, a man and a man, a woman and a woman, whatever, if you're married, your spouse gets benefits.

EDGE - It's well documented that Mixed Martial Arts is still banned in New York and the UFC has been actively campaigning to get that law overturned. Can you discuss your dealings with New York in this regard? And do you think we're close to seeing a show in NY?

Any time you look to change something that's been in place it takes time - like gay marriage. And the same thing happened to us in Montreal. And you know I don't get mad or upset. We always knew we'd do NY last. New York was where all these problems started originally so we knew we wanted to have a lot of success under our belt before we went back to NY.

EDGE - There have been a few athletes in other sports over the past few years who have come out as openly gay. What do you think the reaction would be, in the locker room and with the fans, if one of your athletes came out while competing in the UFC?

I can tell you this, any guy who's involved in "grappling" is not a homophobe. I honestly think it would have no impact whatsoever, with not only the fighters, but also our fan base. The guys in the UFC are so cool and have so much respect for each other. I know it wouldn't be a big deal to me.

EDGE - What about the UFC sponsors?

Oh hell no, let's say we had a guy who was one of our big fighters and he was gay, I wouldn't be marketing him [based on his sexuality] anyway. I mean what he does at home is his business and it has nothing to do with the sport. I would absolutely market him the same as any other fighter. If he's gay he's gay, it's up to him.

EDGE - Steroids in sports are a hot topic lately. Alex Rodriguez, Roger Clemens, Manny Ramirez are a few who have been implicated in PED use. It seems like every day another top name gets linked to the culture. Can you explain how UFC fighters are tested?

We comply with each state's athletic commission. Every state athletic commission randomly test a number of fighters before the fight and then EVERY fighter is tested after the fight.

EDGE - So does the UFC do any additional testing?

Right now the Ultimate Fighter is the grass roots for us. All the guys who come in and try out for the Ultimate Fighter are background checked and drug tested. Not only for steroids but any other drug as well. I think we already have a tough policy for steroids.

EDGE - We wanted to talk for a moment about women in MMA. You have previously stated there really wasn't a market for it because the talent pool wasn't there. Given the recent increase in the talent pool and the success of fighters like Gina Carano has your opinion changed on starting up a female roster in the UFC?

No, if we did a one-off with someone like Gina Carano, who in my opinion is the best, there just isn't a big enough talent pool to keep it going. It's like in [women's] boxing, there was a run there for a while, but there wasn't enough talent to sustain it.

EDGE - Would you ever cross promote an MMA event with another MMA promotion to get a fighter like Fedor Emelianenko in the Octagon? And do you honestly think we'll see the day he fights in the Octagon?

In regards to cross promoting, I would never do it. I would never cross promote. Regarding Fedor, he either wants to come over and fight here or he doesn't. If he came over and wanted to fight I'd do a deal with him in a minute. You know we've been chasing him since we bought Pride. In my opinion, I think it's going to happen. He'd be crazy not to. I mean, why not? He'll come over here and make a bunch of money and maybe even win the title and go down in history as the greatest heavyweight ever. The problem is its one thing for everyone to say it, I mean I can say, "Brock is the greatest heavyweight ever" but they have got to fight. It's the only way to find out. We can argue about it all day but in the end you just have got to get out there and fight.

EDGE - On the business side, the UFC just launched UFC Undisputed by THQ for the X-Box and PS3. It sold out 760,000 copies in 3 days. Were you surprised by the success of the launch?

Yeah, I mean we were hoping it was going to be successful. We worked so hard on that game but you never can predict how it will launch. We knew when we got together with THQ we wanted to make the best fighting video game ever and that's what we tried to do. It's already the fastest selling game in THQ history.

EDGE - Final question, will we ever see Chuck Liddell in a UFC ring again?

I honestly don't think we'll see Chuck Liddell in any ring again.