Dana White has been the face of the UFC since its purchase by the Fertitta brothers in January 2001. His brash attitude and constant use of profanity has made him an extremely polarizing figure in the MMA world. Love him or hate him, it is hard to argue with his results, as the UFC has become MMA in the eyes of most casual fans.
In the past few weeks, however, a lot has changed in the Zuffa world. Injuries have decimated card after card, finally culminating (hopefully) with the cancellation of UFC 151 when Jon Jones refused a replacement fight with top MW contender Chael Sonnen. The rest of the event was simply not strong enough to withstand losing its main event, and the UFC was forced to suffer its punishment for a growing number of boxing-esque weak cards surrounding the big name champions.
Dana did not react well to the events that transpired, choosing to throw his light heavyweight champion under the bus by blaming him for the cancellation of the event. In truth, there was more than enough blame to go around, but Dana's only concern seemed to be deflecting blame to anyone other than himself. While this is a natural human defense mechanism, it is the worst thing a promoter can do. Business decisions must come before ego, and in this case Dana dropped the ball.
What no one could know was somehow things were going to get worse for the embattled figurehead of the UFC. Earlier in the week, the MMA world was rocked by two stunning announcements regarding the future of the two most prestigious titles in the sport. On the same day, fans received the news that Alistair Overeem would be granted an immediate title shot upon his suspension for a massively elevated T/E ratio, as well as the story that Jon Jones would coach TUF alongside Chael Sonnen and they would fight for the title at its conclusion.
To put it politely, these bookings looked to be straight out of the pro wrestling playbook. Sonnen, while the best trash talker in the sport, is coming off a loss at MW, and his last fight at 205 was a loss by submission to Renato "Babalu" Sobral at UFC 55. While his personality will certainly help the abysmal TUF ratings, his title shot is frankly offensive to every fighter in the division that has worked their way toward the top. This will make back to back defenses of the 205 lb title against middleweights in a division with guys like Dan Henderson, Alexander Gustafsson, and Glover Teixeira making statements every time they step in the cage.
As ridiculous as the light heavyweight division has become, the decision to grant Alistair Overeem an immediate title shot tells the fans that the UFC no longer respects their titles. The man has literally run from drug tests in the past, finally failed one, and is being given a title shot as a result. In what world does this make sense? Whether you think PED's should be legal or not, giving a title shot to a man that flagrantly violated the rules is the worst message to send to fighters as well as the fans.
You would think that would have to be it, but the cherry on top has to be his handling of the Jeremy Stephens situation. His unexpected arrest certainly put Dana and the UFC in a bad situation, but White's insistence that the fight was 100% going to happen (even when he could not get Stephens out of jail and the event had started) sounded like delusional rantings, not exactly what the UFC needed then. The media was out to get him, and he more or less accused the police of conspiring to keep Stephens locked up so he couldn't fight.
Now, I realized I have been rather hard on Dana here, but I don't know that all of this is his fault. He has been a victim of a statistically improbable run of bad luck, and he has a rather serious medical condition he is dealing with. Dana's Meniere's disease has gotten bad enough to force him to miss his first event since Zuffa purchased the UFC 11 years ago. He was unable to fly out to Virginia for a UFC on Fuel event in May, and has surgery planned to hopefully combat the problem.
I have no medical background, but I do know a little about Meniere's disease as my mother has suffered from it for many years. When it flares up, it can be totally debilitating, with symptoms including bad cases of vertigo, migraine headaches, and ringing ears. I used to suffer from chronic migraines, and they are enough to put even the strongest of people down for the count. Adding in dizziness and ringing ears has to be excruciating to the point of effecting rational decision making. This is why I am suggesting Dana take a brief leave of absence. He is making decisions that are hurting the credibility of their most prestigious titles and the UFC brand, and making himself look ridiculous in the process. He looks like a man that is struggling with a loss of control over his own body that is carrying over into his business life.
Now, I could be completely wrong about all this, but it is a heck of a coincidence if the disease getting worse and Dana making a number of rash decisions are totally unrelated. I honestly want the best for him and for the UFC, so I hope that he can get everything back on track regarding his health and professional life, even if that means stepping back for a little while.
What do you have to say? Discuss it in the comments.