I'd be tempted to say that UFC president Dana White was in rare form at last night's post-event press conference after UFC 152, but what we saw from Dana was just the same old Dana just with the anger turned up and the swagger turned down.
It was a hard week for White who had to miss a press conference earlier in the week with a re-occurrence of his meniere's disease, an inner-ear disorder and he let all the frustration out at the post-fight press conference, ripping into fans who booed the Flyweight title fight between Demetrious "Mighty Mouse" Johnson and Joseph Benavidez.
"Let me tell you what: If you didn't like that flyweight fight, please, I'm begging you, don't ever buy another UFC pay-per-view again," he said. "Don't ever buy another one. I don't want your money. You're a moron, you don't like fighting and you don't appreciate great talent or heart if you didn't like that flyweight fight.
"I wasn't surprised; I was horrified by the booing. But you know what? I tell these guys after weigh-ins, the way this relationship works, these guys are our partners. We go out and do this, that and everything else, and these guys go out and deliver. And guess what? In every fight you see in the UFC, two guys aren't going to run at each other and just start swinging like mad men. These two guys have worked their entire lives to get to this point, and it's a five-round title fight. If they can get the knockout and submission real quick, sure they're going to go for it, but if the guys are so talented? You have now the world champion and the second-best guy in the world. It's just insane. It drives me crazy."
I don't blame Dana for being frustrated with fans who booed the Flyweight fight -- when I heard the boos I was also shocked since the crowd of hardcore fans I was watching with was completely into the fight - nevertheless, this is not a good marketing strategy. A promoter has to listen to the fans, not try to defy them. Dana might be able to impact press coverage with aggressive counter-attacks, but challenging paying customers to leave is a self-fulfilling prophecy.
He also ripped into Toronto Sun columnist Steve Simmons whose piece "UFC Looking Like a Jugger-Not" pointed out the diminishing returns the promotion is seeing in the Ontario market. This is a classic case of being careful what you wish for. White railed against the "Internet morons" for years but I'm afraid he'll find the larger sports media won't be quite so easily bullied. If anything, White's behavior might just discourage mainstream reporters from covering the sport at all.
Let's look at Simmons' column after the jump...
Simmons had some good points:
The UFC, not just in Toronto, but all over North America, has hit a wall of sorts. It is no longer the next big thing. It is more just another thing.
Some of the problems could have been avoided: Some have been circumstantial.
The UFC was one of those impossible-to-believe growth stories in these days of sports entertainment. It grew to be almost mainstream, amazingly without much support of mainstream media. It became huge, primarily because White made it and himself huge. And then it grew too much, too fast, faced too many obstacles.
UFC 152, the Toronto show, happens to be the seventh consecutive fight card in which a main card fight had to be changed, cancelled or re-introduced because of injury. ...
The pay-per-view numbers the company once bragged about have gone stagnant.
The television ratings on the Fox network, which was supposed to take the UFC more to the people, has yet to hit its stride.
This doesn't mean the UFC is in any kind of serious trouble, it means it has hit a roadblock or two and is no longer this hard-to-explain meteoric star. Those who know the game best say it may be time for UFC to take a step backwards now, analyze where they are, where they aren't going, take a deep breath and do some introspection, and compress its schedule ever so slightly.
Instead of having 12 bouts on a card, why not nine?
Instead of having too many pay-per-view cards, why not be more selective, and in this case take a page from the dreaded boxing world and do three or four huge events a year rather than push people - and bars - to have this happen so often it comes over exposed.
White seized upon Simmons' characterization of Brock Lesnar as the promotions' #1 draw (something MMA Payout concurred with after a lengthy analsyis of UFC PPV numbers) to debunk the whole piece which he treated as a personal affront.
Simmons' analysis of the UFC's current situation was accurate and relatively even-handed.
It's time for the UFC to step back, analyse their situation and make some adjustments but from the way White is talking it appears he'd rather just keep doing what he's been doing, just with more excuses and explanations.
This is a critical stage for White and the UFC and I'm hoping he calms down and steps back and adapts. That's the test of the true greats, the ability to survive a difficult second act, adjust and come back stronger for the rest of the drama.
Here's hoping Dana can do it because bullying frustrated fans and honest, even-handed professional journalists is not going to grow the sport.
White was much more sympathetic when calling out fellow MMA promoters Bellator Fighting Championships over their "scumbag" business moves which involved trying to hold Roger Hollett to the matching phase of their contract with him despite having cut him from the organization.
White may be sometimes petty and is always mercurial and not always fair, but he never dicks around with the livelihood of fighters, especially guys on the bottom of the food chain like Hollet, just because he can.