There's no denying that Dana White's confidence (cockiness?) has played a big role in the UFC's explosion, and given that we're seeing the UFC's second effort on Fox tonight it's impossible to say that he hasn't been a part of great things for the sport. But his attitude over this past week has been inexcusably irresponsible and dangerous for the UFC brand and customers who have given the UFC website any personal information.
When the UFC's support of SOPA led to a website redirect that took people to a picture of an anime version of Hitler, White took to Twitter to repeatedly tell people that he did not care about the attack and said "I'm in the fight biz not the website biz. Who gives a ****?"
Many quickly took the UFC president to task, explaining that the website is more than an advertising tool it is a site to which customers provide their name, address, phone number and credit card information. To treat any attack on the website as an insignificant moment is not what the very vocal face of the company needed to do.
To make matters worse, after the company issued a proper statement explaining that there was no evidence that confidential information was compromised, Dana went to Ariel Helwani and openly invited more attacks when he said "I'm not afraid of you, you don't f*****g scare me, you come in and do your thing, you don't scare me."
From a business standpoint, to invite attacks to a group which loves to be challenged, is incredibly dangerous. There is a time to just shut up. That means not insulting, provoking or joking about a group that presents a risk to your customers. Yet, as recently as last night (Friday) Dana was continuing to call the group involved "terrorists" despite that label being what set off the second round of attacks.
It is the job of a corporation to instill a sense of security and prove to customers that they can trust to do business with them. When Dana is openly inviting attacks he is sending a message, intentional or not, that macho posturing and "not being beaten by nerds" is more important than customer data security.
So far the attacks have been limited to Dana's personal information and some minor attacks on the UFC site (as well as the data of Jason Miller being released) but insulting the attackers and daring them to continue is begging for someone to take it to the next level and attempt to access customer data as in the Sony attacks or what happened with Zappos.
What Dana and the UFC's focus in these situations should be is to focus on making sure that customers feel completely confident in doing business with them, not in trying to win a war of words in what is ultimately a losing game.
While no one is denying Dana's role in building the UFC to the force that it is now, but this was a disappointing moment where he didn't know when to turn off the personality that works so well in fight promotion.
White would do well to keep the words of Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh in mind and how seriously they treated the effect that an attack can have on your brand. "We've spent over 12 years building our reputation, brand and trust with our customers...It's painful to see us take so many steps back due to a single incident."
The UFC didn't have to take much of a step back with the initial attack, but the chosen response by White has already started a chain of customer confidence issues with recommendations floating around the internet that fans not order UFC 143 or any merchandise from the website.
While it may not be time for Dana the fight promoter to grow up, it's certainly time for Dana the businessman to up his game.