LAS VEGAS — If the Ultimate Fighting Championship has gay fighters, their boss believes they should emerge from the closet and not worry about it.
"I’ll tell you right now, if there was a gay fighter in UFC, I wish he would come out," UFC President Dana White said Thursday. "I could care less if there’s a gay fighter in the UFC. There probably is and there’s probably more than one."
Dana White often fires back at his critics.
By Victor Decolongon, Getty Images
White was responding to criticisms levied by the Las Vegas chapter of the Culinary Union and other groups who accuse UFC of being an anti-gay organization. In a letter to Anheuser-Busch and an online petition to Fox, the union and its allies cited statements by White and fighters such as Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira as proof that UFC has "a history of tolerating homophobic conduct."
Anheuser-Busch’s Bud Light brand sponsors UFC. Fox recently signed a seven-year deal to air UFC events.
The most notable instance of White’s use of harsh language came in April 2009, during a video tirade directed at reporter Loretta Hunt and sources she cited anonymously for a Sherdog.com story. In one of the only times he has expressed regret about his language, White quickly issued a video apology about his use of a term frequently associated with anti-gay sentiments, although he did not apologize for other portions of his rant.
"If you guys look at all the stuff that I’ve said over the last 10 years — some of it stupid, some of it whatever — that’s the one that bothers me," White said Thursday. "That’s the only one that bothers me — the fact that these losers from the Culinary Union can go out and say that I’m a homophobe and things like that — because it’s the furthest thing from the truth."
Controversial statements from individuals shouldn’t be used to indict an organization as a whole, White said.
"You’re dealing with human beings," he said. "Everybody makes mistakes and everybody does things that are wrong sometimes. … We do the best we can do. How do you really think that we could possibly police 375 fighters and try to control everything they say?"
The union, which represents hospitality industry workers in Las Vegas, has been trying to gain a foothold in Station Casinos, a gambling company owned by the Fertitta brothers, who also own most of UFC parent Zuffa. Although workers in several Vegas hotel casinos belong to the union, Station employees do not.
To pressure the Fertittas, the union for years has been criticizing their other businesses, most notably UFC. The union funds lawmakers who oppose legalizing MMA in New York and recently called on the Federal Trade Commission to investigate whether Zuffa acts like a monopoly in mixed martial arts.
Although a number of would-be rivals to UFC have failed, Zuffa’s owners maintain that the barrier to entry into the MMA promotion business is so low that it’s impossible to monopolize the sport. The Fertittas and White point to the existence of many regional promoters.
This week’s announcement that entertainment giant Viacom has bought Bellator Fighting Championships and intends to put it on Spike TV underscores the point, White said Thursday.
"We’re far from a monopoly," White said. "Viacom now owns a mixed martial arts organization. They’re sitting on $5 billion in cash. What does that make us? Now we’re the mom-and-pops."
White’s statements came during an informal chat with journalists on Thursday, after a press conference to promote UFC 137 in Las Vegas. Related excerpts from the question-and-answer session:
Joe Gugelman, Pro MMA Now: If you don’t see Bellator as an immediate, successful competitor right away, what role do you see them playing in mixed martial arts?
White: There’s tons of shows out there. There’s tons of shows that happen all over the world. They’re another one of those.
Let me tell you what Viacom’s sitting on: They’re sitting on $5 billion in cash. They’ve got the platform, the money, the network. We’ll see what happens.
I guess it’s always fun for you guys and for the fans to say, "Oh, a competitor. They’ve got a new competitor." It just doesn’t work like that. I’ve been saying that for 10 years; it’s not the way it works.
Most of these guys that everybody thought were competitors were $30 (million) to $40 million in the hole when they ended up going away.
Sergio Non, USA TODAY: Would their success help insulate you from accusations of being a monopoly?
This is not a monopoly. It’s the dumbest thing ever said.
Non: But people call you that.
They can call us whatever. People call me a lot of things; doesn’t mean I’m all of them (laughs). But yes, we’re far from a monopoly. If you guys could really know that story too.
Non: But do organizations like Bellator prove that you’re not?
You guys tell me. If we’re a monopoly — Viacom now owns a mixed martial arts organization. They’re sitting on $5 billion in cash. What does that make us? Now we’re the mom-and-pops. Right? Seriously, I can tell you this: the UFC has been tremendously successful; we’re not sitting on $5 billion in (freaking) cash.
Kevin Iole, Yahoo Sports: There’s no similarity to Microsoft and Apple a couple of years ago? Microsoft was ruled a monopoly by the European Union.
We’re not making computer chips over here, ok? So dude, the monopoly thing is so ridiculous. It’s ridiculous.
If you ever thought there was any kind of argument whatsoever that we were — Viacom is now in the business.
Even before we were doing it, Fox was involved. Fox has been involved in mixed martial arts before. You know Bellator was on Fox, right? Bellator was on ESPN. Weren’t they on NBC too? They were on NBC. And now they’re on Spike!
The difference is, now Spike owns it. Spike owns that company now. Viacom owns Spike. Sitting on $5 billion in cash.
Seriously, you have to be a moron — an absolute moron — to say that this thing is a monopoly. Or just out to get us and just hate us and want to say it. So you’re one of the two: You’re either a hater or a moron.
Iole: I don’t think that’s true, but…
It’s absolutely true. It’s a fact. It’s a fact.
Dude, you can talk to a zillion lawyers that deal with monopolies and stuff like this. It’s a joke. It’s an absolute joke.
Ken Pishna, MMAWeekly.com: The Culinary Union, up in New York, obviously you’ve been butting heads with them. Now they’ve enlisted some other groups that are calling on the UFC for the fighters and such using derogatory language and bigoted language and things like that. Do you have any response to those groups that say you should be policing your fighters more? Or even yourself sometimes?
I definitely should be policing myself. (reporters laugh)
Are we perfect and do we do everything the right way all the time? No.
The accusations that the Culinary Union is making, especially (about) me, on the gay slurs and stuff like that — everybody knows what that was.
Seriously, if you guys look at all the stuff that I’ve said over the last 10 years — some of it stupid, some of it whatever — that’s the one that bothers me. That’s the only one that bothers me — is the fact that these losers from the Culinary Union can go out and say that I’m a homophobe and things like that — because it’s the furthest thing from the truth. I think enough of you here know me that if I was, I’d tell you I was and I’d tell you why I was.
It’s not true, and it’s something that these guys can throw up on a cute little website. I said it to Ariel (Helwani) last time he asked me: I don’t give a (darn) what these guys do or what they write or what they say. Make a TV show about me too. Make three more websites about me. You don’t bother me. You don’t hurt me. I could care less what the Culinary Union thinks of me. I don’t care. They have nothing to do with my world. That’s their beef with the Fertittas.
Guys, put some money up. Start a TV show. Do whatever you want. You guys don’t faze me. You don’t affect me. I could give a (crap) about you.
Focus on something else. Focus on making your people that are in this casino right here busting their (butt) every day, that you’re taking this union money dues, and spend it something worthwhile other than me.
Pishna: Do you think there’s any validity to the groups that are saying stuff about like Rampage’s motorboating incident or…
Rampage is a nut. Dude, Nick Diaz is a nut. We’ve got some guys that are nutty.
Pishna: Do you think it’s your responsibility to do more to control them, though?
When Rampage, that stuff happened, I flew out and did. I do what I can do for these guys. You’re dealing with human beings.
I love when you get these organizations that try to — I guess I’d call it the holier-than-thou approach. You know, really? So when these guys make mistakes and things happen and bad things happen, you want to point the finger at them and say this whole organization is bad and these are bad people because these are things that (they) have done. (Screw) you, ok?
Guess what: Everybody makes mistakes and everybody does things that are wrong sometimes. Everybody. I don’t care who you are. I don’t care what you do for a living or what you’ve done. I don’t deal with the holier-than-thou (baloney). I don’t. We do the best we can do.
Nick Diaz is here today. He didn’t show up to the press conference. He says nutty things. He’ll go back and do an interview and you’ll watch it and go, "What? What did he say?"
BJ. Who’s nuttier than BJ? Look at the stuff that BJ says.
How do you really think that we could possibly police 375 fighters and try to control everything they say?
The thing that Nogueira said down in Brazil, you know? And I’ll tell you right now, if there was a gay fighter in UFC, I wish he would come out. I could care less if there’s a gay fighter in the UFC. There probably is and there’s probably more than one. I mean, it’s 2012. Give me a break.
But you’re going to have guys like Nogueira who come from Brazil, who’s got that macho, Latino — doesn’t want to roll with a gay guy. People are going to say stuff like this. And what I can’t do is…
Non: (jokingly) Is that a slur against Latino guys?
(White, reporters laugh) Yeah, I’ll have the Latino organization after me.
But that’s the best answer I can give you is, give me a (freaking) break and be honest. Come on. We’re all human beings. We all make mistakes sometimes. It doesn’t mean that the UFC is bad and we’re unfit for children and all this other stuff.
Tell you what: Out of the 375 guys, we’ve got a few lunatics; some guys that are nutty; and then we’ve got 300 and something that are incredible, awesome human beings who are inspirational to kids and adults and whoever else is a human being.
So I don’t like playing all that (baloney). I just don’t do it, give a (crap) what the Culinary Union has to say or anybody else that wants to come out and says negative things about us. Because anybody that’s been around the sport long enough knows it’s not true.