UFC 231 was every bit as good a fight card as it looked on paper. Bouts between Thiago Santos & Jimi Manuwa, Gunnar Nelson & Alex Oliveira, and Valentina Shevchenko & Joanna Jedrzejczyk all delivered great, high-level action. But, none moreso than the main event, where featherweight champion Max Holloway faced title challenger Brian Ortega.
Ortega made it through four grueling rounds against the champion before the doctor stopped the fight ahead of the opening bell in round 5. His left eye swollen shut, his face bloodied, the challenger had flashes of success in the cage — but largely the fight was dictated by Holloway’s success.
It was a masterful exhibition of the Hawaiian’s supreme footwork and combination boxing, out-landing at nearly a 3-to-1 clip, when all was said and done. A performance good enough to earn some unusual praise, as Dana White recently revealed in an interview with Barstool Sports’ Pardon My Take podcast.
“The reality is everybody watches fights,” White said, in an extensive interview covering Oscar De La Hoya and Conor McGregor, as well as several other topics. “And if you keep putting on good talent, anybody will.”
Before the show hosts could segue to another question, White produced the following audio clip.
“‘Hi mister White, this is Molly Michael, calling from President Trump’s office. The president was hoping to reach you by phone when you’re available,’” the clip said, when played back on air.
”So, he calls me on Tuesday,” White went on to reveal, “for 15 minutes he couldn’t stop talking about the fight. ‘Greatest fight I’ve ever seen in my life.’ He watched the fight with Melania. ‘Greatest fight I’ve ever seen.’ He’s talking about how tough Holloway and Ortega both are and he’s going off about the fights. And Thiago Santos, he couldn’t believe. ‘That fight was incredible,’ and all this stuff. As human beings, we love fighting.”
Of course, Trump has had his own well known connections to the MMA world previously. White credits the Commander in Chief with helping to pull the UFC out of the ‘dark ages’ when he hosted the then struggling promotion at his Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City three times between 2000-2001. That included UFC 30, the first fight card under the promotion’s new Zuffa ownership.
Trump also helped significantly bankroll the short-lived Affliction MMA promotion, which produced two notable events between 2008-2009 — both of which prominently featured Fedor Emelianenko. While Trump’s financial interest in MMA has been seemingly minimal in the years since, he and White have kept up a close enough relationship that White was given a prominent speaking role at the Republican National Convention in 2016, during the lead-up to Trump’s election. Maybe that means Max Holloway can get a trip to the White House out of all this as well.