Dana White Defends Stephan Bonnar Induction to Hall of Fame
By Christopher Murphy @MurphMMA
Last month, Stephan Bonnar was inducted into the UFC’s Hall of Fame alongside fellow cast member of The Ultimate Fighter’s premier season and former light heavyweight champion, Forrest Griffin. Though many would question this decision, UFC president Dana White vehemently defended his stance in a discussion with Kevin Iole of Yahoo! Sports.
Though Bonnar has never won a UFC title, and he has been caught for steroids twice in his career, the UFC inducted him into it’s Hall of Fame. The reason for this decision, according to White, is Bonnar and Griffin’s fight in the TUF finale, a fight that he says single-handedly saved the UFC.
“I don’t think people realize, really, really realize what that one fight meant to this sport and this company. I look at it as, I’m inducting Forrest, and Stephan goes with him. It wasn’t just Forrest. Both of those guys took us to this next level. He’s being inducted for that one fight that took this thing to the next level.”
What accentuates the importance of that one fight, explains White, is the risk he and his business partners at Zuffa took to produce The Ultimate Fighter- a risk that put them $30 million in debt. Zuffa was responsible for all production costs for TUF, a price-tag that used up the last of their funds. To make matters worse, in the early days of filming the fighters were refusing to fight.
“This was our last $10 million,” said White. “This was it. It was over. Our last $10 million, and Lorenzo [Fertitta] says, ‘None of these guys are going to fight.’ I’m like, ‘What? I’m on my way over there right now.’ That’s where the whole, ‘Do you want to be a [expletive] fighter thing’ came from.
“This thing was over! It was the end of my [expletive] life. OK? It was [expletive] over. Now, people think I went over there like some tough guy. No. My life was about to be over, all right? And I said, ‘If you don’t want to fight, then I’m throwing down with all you [expletive] guys. I was going crazy man.”
As it would turn out, Stephan Bonnar would win his way to the championship fight against Forrest Griffin. The fight was a grueling battle, one of the best fights there has been in MMA. White reflected that he almost kicked Bonnar off the show for sneaking out of the house to find a liquor store. Fortunately, he allowed the fighter to continue fighting, and that fight generated the biggest audience for mixed martial arts in the US. The reality show drew more than one million viewers per episode.
The subsequent success and explosion of popularity mixed martial arts and the UFC have seen, White believes, is due entirely to that one fight between Bonnar and Griffin.
“Nobody knows more than me how much that fight meant,” said White. “For us, that fight meant everything, and I never forget it.”