The nominees for the 13th World Mixed Martial Arts Awards were recently released. There were some rather egregious missteps in those nominations. For instance, Steven Marrocco, who wrote one of the most important MMA stories ever in “The cost of being ‘The King’” didn’t even warrant a nomination for “Journalist of the Year.” However, since the nominees are based on opinion, I can’t quibble all that much with most of their choices.
That being said, there is one nomination that isn’t at all grounded with facts. That nominee is Dana White, and the award is the “Fighting Spirit Of The Year” award.
White, who is the president of the UFC, was nominated for this award under the heading of “Leadership.” Here is what is written above White’s photograph on the page of nominees:
“LEADERSHIP - Dana White - When all sports were down and out due to Covid-19, against all the odds Dana White made Fight Island real.”
This may come as a surprise to some — perhaps even to White himself — as he has been pedaling this myth for a while, but White didn’t make Fight Island real.
I’ll allow Ari Emanuel, the C.E.O. of the Endeavor company, which owns the UFC, to take it from here.
According to Ari Emanuel, the C.E.O. of the Endeavor company, which owns the UFC, who spoke to The New Yorker, it was he — not White - who got the ball rolling on Fight Island.
In late March, Emanuel received a call from Khaldoon Al Mubarak, who according to the story, is “basically the C.E.O. of Abu Dhabi.” Emanuel said that call boiled down to Al Mubarak saying, “‘Why don’t you have the UFC come here? We’ll create a bubble for you.”
With that, Al Mubarak planted the first seed of Fight Island. It did not take long for that seed to grow and grow and grow. It also did not take White long to become the UFC’s COVID-19 era version of Johnny Appleseed.
In early April, White took credit for the work of Al Mubarak and Emanuel when he told ESPN, “I’ve also secured an island.”
As the New Yorker notes, White pontificated about the expense of Fight Island to anyone who would listen. As the story also notes, Abu Dhabi not only shouldered those costs, but paid the UFC.
In fact, Abu Dhabi not only built the arena and provided private planes, food, housing, testing facilities, and medical staff; it also paid the UFC for each fight, at rates that compensated for the absence of ticket sales.
“In fact, Abu Dhabi not only built the arena and provided private planes, food, housing, testing facilities, and medical staff; it also paid the UFC for each fight, at rates that compensated for the absence of ticket sales.”
The myth of “Dana White: mastermind behind Fight Island” is just that, a myth. If anyone deserves a nomination for the “Fighting Spirit Of The Year” award, it’s Al Mubarak, who stepped in with the solution. Emanuel explained that fact in the April 26/May 3 edition of The New Yorker. It’s right there in black and white for everyone to read.
White getting nominated, and possibly even winning the award, will be just as big a farce as the idea that he “secured an island.”