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After Brendan Schaub’s ‘Eskimo brothers’ taunt, Dana White needs to show some professional leadership

The UFC president got into a public beef with former fighter and current talking head Brendan Schaub on Thursday. But, after Schaub started making insinuations about his sexual history, White is left with questions to answer.

Premiere Of Warner Bros. Pictures’ ‘War Dogs’ - Arrivals Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

Dana White has been placed firmly in the cross-hairs. The head man for the world’s largest MMA organization appears to have made a rather unfortunate, and potentially serious mistake. He got into a war of words with someone who not only seems to know what skeletons are in his closet, but also seemingly has nothing to lose by exposing them.

When Brendan Schaub made some recent offhand comments about kickboxers trying their hand in the UFC, I doubt he thought he’d end up airing Dana White’s dirty laundry. But, the man with a penchant for letting his mouth run ahead of his thoughts found himself doing just that on Twitter yesterday. Following a spat with White across middleweight Israel Adesanya’s Instagram feed, Schaub took to other social media platforms to escalate their war of words.

The term “Eskimo brothers” at the bottom, is a slang reference to two men who have had sex with the same woman. It’s a petty, stupid way to potentially air out multiple people’s sexual history casually, and it says nothing good of Schaub that he can’t be trusted not to tell his 600,000+ followers details of his past partners’ own sex lives. Especially since there’s likely zero chance this beef ends on the tweet above.

Unfortunately for White, however, that kind of blunt threat puts the weight of being the ‘bigger man’ entirely on his shoulders. And that’s a role White’s rarely played comfortably across his career as an unabashedly unfiltered combat sports promoter. If someone is going to go low, White is usually willing to meet them exactly on their own terms. In this case, though, the collateral damage of either taunting Schaub further, or of just leaving the entire thing alone may be too volatile to incur.

Not only is White going to have to face potential questions about infidelity in his personal life (he’s been married since 1996), but the rumor mill is already in full swing, as the public tries to figure out what unfortunate woman has been plunked straight into the middle of this two-man trashfire. And for many, the most likely answer to that question is current WWE star – and former face of the UFC – Ronda Rousey.

Rousey and Schaub had a short-lived public relationship, during his time with the now WME-IMG owned promotion. Additionally, rumors that Rousey and White were more than ‘just friends’ have been swirling, ever since Zuffa purchased Strikeforce back in 2011. She and White were often seen publicly together during the first years of her MMA career, with Rousey even accompanying White to events on his private jet. It’s an easy leap for those interested in making it, that she’s the woman in question.

In her autobiography, and in interviews following, Rousey has denied any physical relationship between herself and White, full stop. Saying instead that the time they spent together was largely due to delays in moving her out of the Showtime promotion and into the UFC. She and White made public appearances together as he tried to keep her convinced that plans were still in motion, even as they failed to come to fruition as quickly as anticipated. And while that sounds sensible enough, unfortunately for her, that’s not going to stop people from talking.

Instead it’s on Dana White to make it clear to people just what Schaub is taunting him with, who he’s hinting at, and where the truth in it lies. But not just for the sake of the woman he calls “a very good f—king friend of mine.” White also has an entire roster of talent to manage, a roster that may see this as a major reason to distrust working with him.

As the president of UFC operations – and the man who, at the end of the day, is responsible for how fighters in the UFC are promoted – the insinuation that he may have been selectively sleeping with a fighter, and that that fighter just happened to get more attention than her peers in terms of marketing, could be deeply damaging to a UFC/athlete relationship that is already often rocky at best.

Maybe it’s true. Maybe the rumors are spot on (as unlikely as that seems). But even if that’s the case, White is likely better off confronting the public with that fact on his own terms, rather than letting Schaub be the first one to tell the story.

Attempts to organize athletes into a position of collective bargaining, lawsuits accusing the promotion of monopoly practices, invasive drug testing, uniforms, and increasing battles over salary expectations & contractual obligations have created a number of tenuous relationships between UFC brass and the talent that fight under them. To let this hang, as a rumor, wouldn’t only give it the feel of truth, but let imagination run wild. Is this how one woman gets a title shot when another can’t? Is this why the UFC seems so disinterested in the future of their bantamweight division these days? Is this why White has been so quick to throw Amanda Nunes under the bus?

And of course, to let Schaub lead the way, and spill it all, is to hand the narrative over to a man with nothing invested in the outcome. A man who doesn’t have to care where collateral damage falls, because his position in the industry doesn’t depend on his relationships to anyone potentially affected.

This is a moment where White would be best served to step forward, be a leader, be professional, and put his cards on the table whatever they may be. Whether or not he can manage that is another thing entirely.