This post originally appears over at HeadKickLegend. Thanks for reading.
Well, the press conference took place in New York, which is a stone's throw from Toms River, New Jersey. Toms River of course, is Frankie's hometown.
In my short time writing about MMA there are two things I've learned about Dana White that I can say I'm sure of:
The first is that he's the hardest working sports executive on the planet, bar none. The second (and this is almost surely a product of the first), is that he is more connected and more responsive to his fan base than any of his aforementioned peers.
Since the calender turned over to 2012, the UFC has held shows in Brazil, Tennessee, Las Vegas, Nebraska, Japan and Australia. In straight air travel from one destination to the next, that's over 34,000 miles, or an average of 500 miles of travel per day. When you factor in the travel to and from the UFC's Las Vegas headquarters, as well as the various other cities White goes to in his on-going promotional efforts the distance traveled by White in just over two months reaches well above 40,000 miles. For some perspective on that, the average NHL team travels about 40,000 miles in a single eight month season. The average major league baseball team travels less than that.
On top of the travel, Dana is in charge of a roster of over 300 individual fighters that is constantly in flux. Of the rest of the professional sports leagues in North America, NFL general managers have the biggest roster to deal with, beginning each season with 80 players, but by the time the games count for real they will have whittled it down to 53.
Finally, each of the other professional sports leagues have a designated off-season lasting between three and six months. The UFC meanwhile, is open for business 365 days a year.
Considering this unforgiving travel schedule, White doesn't have the luxury of taking much time mulling over decisions. His position demands that he make decisions quickly and move on.
Like any good promoter, Dana doesn't just travel to every event, he shows up days in advance to hit the pavement and promote his show. From press conferences to interviews with local radio, TV, and newsprint media, he's extremely hands on. Anyone who follows White on twitter (at just under two million, there are a lot of us), or has seen his video blogs will be familiar with the hunt for tickets ritual that he puts on a few days before every show: White tweets his location in the host city and moments later, fans come running, hoping to score one of a handful of free tickets to the event. It's not uncommon for White to spend an hour or two after every media event hanging out with fans, signing autographs, taking pictures and yes, talking fights.
The UFC president is a fight fan first and foremost. He has said it over and over again that his job is to put the fights on that fans want to see. And he has always shown himself to be responsive to the fans, even if it means making some strange decisions. When Nick Diaz was dropped from his championship fight against Georges St. Pierre, Dana responded to a legion of disappointed Diaz fans by putting him back on the card against B.J. Penn later that same night. When Alistair Overeem dropped out of the Strikeforce Grand Prix in the middle of a contract dispute with Zuffa, Dana forgave, forgot and brought him straight into the UFC to face Brock Lesnar in one of the most anticipated heavyweight fights in recent memory. He constantly delivers the fights that we want to see.
In fact, I'd go so far as to say that for a guy in his position, Dana seems to me to actually be a real sweetheart, with a pretty big heart. The only other fight promoter in modern history with as much sway as Dana White was Don King. For just a little insight into the scumbag that King was, have a glance at his wikipedia entry. Dana isn't perfect but he's certainly no Don King.
This finally brings me back to my original statement that I knew Edgar was going to get a rematch with Ben Henderson when I saw that the UFC was coming to New York. Dana was going to the former champions backyard and he was sure to spend the day hearing passionate pleas from Edgar supporters that their guy be given another chance. After all, Edgar had to fight his last two challengers twice, so why shouldn't he get another chance?
You can be sure that Dana didn't want to make this fight. He has long stated that he prefers to have Frankie fight at 145 pounds, a more natural weight class for Edgar, who does not cut weight to make 155. He was very vocal about it during the pre-fight press conference for last week's UFC on FX 2 event and again at yesterday press conference. Frankie hasn't really been much of a draw as champion either; according to the MMAPayout.com Blue Book, the two cards that Edgar headlined in 2011 had the two lowest buy-rates of the year.
Yet, with all the reasons in the world to not book a rematch, there he was on twitter last night announcing that Frankie "Two Times" (credit to bloody elbow member joe_mama for my new favorite fighter nickname) would indeed get another fight against Henderson in the summer and in the process making the fans that he had just spent the morning with incredibly happy. It's exactly what I expected to happen, although I didn't think it would be as quickly as that evening.
Not everyone is happy about the decision and with good reason. The deepest division in the sport is going to have it's third consecutive title re-match, all of which have involved Edgar. Why not throw someone else in?
But those questions are not of any concern to Dana White any more. After all, tomorrow is another day, another plane to catch, another group of fans asking to see their favorite fighter get their shot. And you know what?
Something tells me the UFC president is going to make it happen for them.
He always does.