To Dana White, it appears that MMA is like every other major sport, except when it isn't.
Luke Thomas brought us Round 1 in the teammate vs teammate debate less than two weeks ago. Given Dana White's recent comments about Shinya Aoki, I think we should take another look at Dana's argument that teammates should be willing to fight each other. From MMAWeekly (and subsequently on Bloody Elbow):
Aoki drew tremendous criticism at Dynamite!! 2009 when he broke Sengoku lightweight champion Mizuto Hirota’s arm and flipped him off as he writhed in pain.
White said the behavior was part of the fight business.
“This isn’t (expletive) baseball or one of these other sports,” White said at a gathering of reporters after Saturday’s UFC 108. “Sometimes these guys hate each other. When you break a guy’s arm that you hate, flip him off, and let him know you’re glad you broke his arm, I guess, it happens sometimes.
"You can say 'Oh I'm going to play football, I'm going to play hockey, I'm going to play baseball.' But you can't say I'm going to play fighting. It's not a game," the UFC welterweight champion told fans last month during a question-and-answer session prior to UFC 105 in Manchester, England. "It's a sport, yes, but it's a full-contact sport. And the way I fight, my so-called friend, if I fight him, it can affect his well-being.
"So let's say I'm mounted, on top of my friend, and it's time to land this last big elbow that will probably make a scar in the middle of his forehead and knock him out cold and cause him brain damage," he added, drawing laughs from crowd. "No I'm telling it like it is, if he's my friend, I'm going to think twice before I do it. I won't be able to do that to a friend. So that's the reason why I will never fight a friend. I know a lot of fighters who will disagree with me, but me that's my personal belief."
Two weeks ago, Dana didn't agree with GSP and based his argument on MMA being just like every other major sport:
"It's going to happen," he said. "Listen, it's the dumbest thing I've ever heard in the world. It's like Shaq not wanting to play against one of his friends. It's a sport and you're out there to compete with each to see who the best is, not you're my friend and I don't like you if we fight. You're competing to see who's better. Imagine if certain baseball teams didn't want to play other baseball teams because they're friends. 'He's my friend, I don't want to see him lose.' Give me a break. It's ridiculous.
"Every baseball team wants to win the World Series. Every football team wants to win the Super Bowl and every guy that fights wants to be considered the best in the world. And if you and a guy that you're friends with are two of the best in the world and you're in the same weight division, you're going to have to fight."
So, MMA "isn’t (expletive) baseball or one of these other sports” until it comes to teammates not wanting to fight each other. Then, "It's like Shaq not wanting to play against one of his friends. It's a sport and you're out there to compete with each to see who the best is [...]"
There's a bigger issue that we need to keep in mind as MMA continues to grow. MMA is a sport, but it isn't just like playing baseball and football or any other sport. We need to realize both of those things when we form expectations about what fighters should and should not do. In particular, we can't simply choose whichever aspect is more convenient to our argument at a given time, as Dana seems to be doing in recent comments.