Somewhere around three years ago, the UFC was hitting its absolute stride. With the help of solid promotion and on the backs of a handful of big stars, most notably former professional wrestler Brock Lesnar, they were on their way to mainstream acceptance and, among most young people, had completely knocked Boxing on its ass.
Well, all has changed since then, and in a lot of ways you could see it coming. All the familiar signs were there. Overexposure. Greed. Brazen, often outright wreckless leadership.
You name it, really. Several prominent fighters have been popped for steroids, and the company hasn’t exactly been vigilant on drug testing, despite claims that they were going to do everything to keep the cheaters out. Fighters are getting hurt left and right because the state-of-the-art in training basically involves guys going full-bore in practice and getting themselves all fucked up, thus forcing them to drop out of fights with little notice. The rigid scoring system and the fact that most fights are three rounds makes for alot of fights where the judges decisions are basically arbitrary, if not altogether wrong.
What else? Oh, Dana White, the President of the company and it’s public face is an arrogant, smug fucker who doesn’t ever hesitate to get into public shouting matches with journalists (White called MMA writer Loretta Hunt “a dumb bitch” and basically refused to apologize for it, among other transgressions), rival promoters or even his own fighers, and in most examples will go out of way to make those in his employ look as bad as he can. Everyone from Tito Ortiz to Randy Couture to current Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones has been the target of his public wrath, and in most cases it’s been a result of White wanting to shift the blame for something that has gone wrong onto someone, anyone, but himself.
Funny how White’s intention to establish MMA as a dignified sport is often sabotaged by his overwhelming desire to carry himself like your average frathouse bully.
Basically, this whole thing felt like it was on the fast track to becoming a joke, or at the very least an afterthought in the minds of the average sports fan.
And that was before what happened this week.
The short version of the story is that just over a week before their scheduled UFC 151 event, one of the main eventers (Dan Henderson) pulled out with an injury and because the rest of the card was so devoid of star power, they were forced to either find a replacement for a championship match in the next day or two or be prepared to scrap the show altogether. Now in Boxing this kind of thing happens quite often, but in the UFC’s history, they’ve never had to cancel an event this close to showtime.
Somehow, though, the brunt of the blame was placed squarely on Jon Jones’ shoulders because he refused to accept a substitute opponent for a title fight 8 days before the fact. Not the UFC’s fault for scheduling a show so lacking in attractive matchups that they couldn’t bump the semi-main event up, not Dan Henderson’s fault for bailing out at this late despite suffering his injury three weeks prior, not White’s fault for failing to have a plan B in place.
Nope, somehow it was up to Jones to save the show and because he elected not to defend his world title and risk his perfect record under such flimsy circumstances, he’s being labeled both selfish and a coward. I mean, that’s what White is saying. Forget that Jones has defended his title often and against all comers, and nevermind the fact that Jones has recently signed a potentially lucrative deal with Nike. For some unfathomable reason, he’s being vilified for bailing White and the UFC out of a jam that was almost completely of their doing.
Even worse, White somehow finds it wise to turn his fan base against one of his best fighters. Well, either that or he’s just that determined to pass the buck. hey, he’s the boss, right?
So yeah, what a joke. Anybody who is even half paying attention could have seen this kind of thing coming a mile away. I’m not saying this is the beginning of the end or anything close to that, but I do think this kind of business practice is going to do them much more harm than anyone can fathom today.
There is a certain type of person for whom success is assured, even if controversy tends to overshadow it. You know, the guys who are usually one step from either genius or ruination, depending on how the wind blows. Someone like Ozzie Guillen, that type of guy that you just know is gonna say or do something that will completely blow up in his face. Well, Dana White is that guy, and no matter how high he rode three years ago, it’s bound to come crashing down all around him if he keeps this shit up. With a company that now relies heavily on sponsorship deals with huge corporations and a television partnership with a major network, all it’s going to take is one major lapse in judgement, and judging by his recent trajectory, I’d be willing to be we see it happen within the next year or so. Call it a gut instinct or whatever, but after all the mistakes made in recent months, I’m willing to bet it’s gonna be sooner than later.
Works for me. Maybe I’ll actually have a shot at taking this sport seriously again.