UFC President Dana White is at it again. This time, he's taking offense to criticism by former UFC lightweight champion B.J. Penn that the UFC forced him to fabricate the slightest bit of animosity toward his UFC 137 opponent, Nick Diaz, during a segment for the UFC Countdown show. Penn posted a video on Tuesday on his website explaining to viewers that he had no ill will toward Diaz. Dana White responded by posting a "raw & uncut" video of the interview, suggesting that nobody forced Penn to say what he said during the interview.
The interview is far from raw as White suggests, so there is still doubt whether White is telling the truth. What is apparent is that Penn was launching a preemptive strike against the idea that he had any animosity toward Diaz. Both men have trained together in the past, and Diaz has stated that there is a mutual respect between the two veteran fighters. Even if it is apparent that Penn wasn't forced to disrespect Diaz, I believe he thought there was enough of chance of Diaz taking it badly that he wanted to pass the blame somewhere else.
Dana White responded as you might expect. He shoved "proof" in our faces that Penn wasn't pushed into telling the audience that he wanted to beat Nick Diaz. Does anyone really care? I didn't think so.
I'm in the minority when it comes to an opinion on this situation. I truly think Penn was attempting to avoid an awkward situation with Nick Diaz, a training partner he has respect for and probably hopes to continue working with in the future. Some fans would say that this is the fight business and fighters should know that most of the talk is cheap. I don't know if we can say that about Nick Diaz however. Something tells me that most comments Nick hears aren't taken out of any context. What he hears is what he believes.
The UFC didn't have the foresight to see that situation unfolding in front of them. My guess is Dana White didn't think that far ahead, and he was reacting as he always has to a situation that he feels put the UFC in an unfair light. Dana being Dana as many would say. The reaction had about as much foresight as the strategy to announce major news ahead of a fairly relevant Strikeforce card this past weekend.
It's a shady move by the UFC, in my mind, to undermine Penn's true intention, but Penn didn't explain it very well at all. In fact, a demeanor that we've seen in past squabbles with the UFC came out in the video. Nobody was pulling Penn's arm to say the things he said, and it's difficult for any of us to watch those interviews and believe that Penn had legitimate disrespect for his opponent. Penn didn't know how Diaz would react. Unfortunately, he didn't tell his audience about those concerns in the video. He blamed the UFC.
Bad move. I can't say I'm surprised at the UFC's reaction. When a fighter blames the organization for something as petty as this, Dana White has been quick to provide proof against those accusations. This time around, the proof is incomplete, and the issue is so minuscule that it sets off a light bulb in one's mind that this is a means for the UFC to produce a small media frenzy over an overblown issue.
Who's in the wrong here? I think the UFC blew this thing way out of proportion by responding to Penn's seemingly irrelevant accusation. I think it looks as if they are attempting to create animosity where none really exists, but Diaz's bizarre social understanding might make him believe Penn is lying and was attempting to bury Diaz in the interview. It tugs at the devil on my shoulder, but it also makes business sense.
Penn should have been more clear of his intentions in the video instead of blaming the UFC. That would have killed any opportunity for the UFC to swoop in with their own version of the story. Instead, people will talk, and the UFC may get what they secretly want -- some heat between these two fighters. If not, we can always go for another Dana White vs. enter fighter's name here saga, right?