By: Red Mattos
UFC president Dana White recently sat down with national columnist Mark Kriegel and
Al Bundy Ed O’Neill to discuss all things MMA. You may or may not know this but, believe it or not, Ed O’Neill is a black belt in Gracie jiu-jitsu. He rolls with Rorion Gracie and he’s been doing it for over 20 years. He knows a little bit about the sport. The touch on everything from Mayweather to Overeem, all available on foxsports.com but I’ve picked out some of (what I think) are the more interesting nuggets of conversation.
On the evolution of the UFC fighters:
Ed O’Neill started it by saying, “We were just talking about the quality of athletes that you’re getting out in the UFC. It’s really impressive. I mean, you know, when it started it out there were some good guys, there were some skillful guys, there were also some guys that were out of shape. But today, you got world class guys in there. World class athletes.”
Dana accepted the praise and added to it. “What’s happening now is, you know, because there is so much exposure and so much money involved in the sport, you’ve got guys that would’ve played football, baseball, basketball.” Ed O’Neill interjected with, “Guys who are coming in to your sport.”
“Let’s be honest and not knock on all the other sports but, as men and this doesn’t just work here in the United States, it’s all over the world. Every guy, you know, has that thing … would love to be a fighter. To be the world champion means more than winning a ring. Hey, we threw more balls through a circle. Hey we hit more balls over a wall with a stick. But to be the champion…”
On the subject of Jon Jones vs the world:Kriegel chimes in with the notion that being the heavyweight champion is the “central, iconic title in sports. The one thing that UFC hasn’t had is a long reigning Heavyweight champion.”
O’Neill and White both agree that Dos Santos is the real deal. O’Neill believes that if Jones were to move up he would not be able to take Dos Santos, adding, “He’s not big enough, not strong enough and by the way, he doesn’t punch all that good. He’s not a striker.” Dana agreed with his assessment.
They did praise Jones on his wrestling and his ability to adjust and adapt with the fight, mentioning those elbows he landed on Rashad, that no one at the table had seen thrown that way before.
On Jones’ next opponent Dan Henderson, Kriegel couldn’t see how a 42 year old could challenge a 24 year old.
“Dan Henderson is a pain in my ass.” Dana said, “He’s the biggest pain in my ass, but Dan Henderson, I will give him all the credit in the world on what a tough guy… great wrestler and he can knock you out with either hand and he’s got a chin like granite. That’s a very dangerous fight. That’s gonna be one of those fights, as we continue to assess Jon Jones throughout his career here… again the kid is still twenty-four years old, he’s young he’s got a lot of learning to do.”
Kriegel pose the question to O’Neill asking if he thought Hendo has a shot. O’Neill didn’t hesitate: “Yeah, if Henderson hits him on the chin he’s out.”
The next part of the conversation moved on to everyone’s favorite heavyweight- Overeem. Kriegel posed an interesting question asking, would they give him “additional punishment above what Nevada has imposed?”
Dana answers: “That’s a great question. I gotta fly back to Las Vegas today get together with my crew and we’re gonna figure out what’s going to happen with Alistair Overeem. He’s got a nine month suspension from the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC). So I need to get back into the office and figure out what we’re going to do.”
“There is a value and a message being sent, right?” Kriegel said, to which Dana replied, “I agree.”
Dana gave his final thought on the subject, “The bottom line is the NSAC regulates us and what happens in the sport. They’ve given him a 9 month suspension, which I thought was gonna be bigger. I thought he was gonna get a bigger suspension. So the fact that they gave him 9 months… says that they found some validity in his story.”
With regards to Overeem not fighting Dos Santos –
Ed O’Neill: “Junior Dos Santos would’ve knocked Overeem out anyway. Here’s the thing, Overeem got enormous, he never punched any harder. He punched the same way he punched when he was 210. He wrestles better, stronger. But it didn’t help his kicking, it didn’t help his punching.”
Dana added, “Well no matter how big you are or how much muscle you pack on, you still got the same chin. Your chin isn’t going anywhere. Chuck Liddell knocked him out at 205 pounds.”
The conversation took an Iceman detour –
O’Neill says he heard Chuck might fight again to which Dana quickly responded: “He’ll never fight again.”
According to Dana: “The problem with Chuck Liddell is, and it’s the beautiful thing about Chuck Liddell, this guy was born to fight. It’s who he is; it’s who he is inside. He was born a fighter. So for me and him to sit down as friends and have that conversation where I’m like ‘brother I don’t want to see this happening anymore’…”
O’Neill recalls a similar conversation he had with Liddell, discussing his last fight, a knockout loss to Rich Franklin. “I said ‘were you thinking about it, cause you got knocked out funny.’ You see fighters get hit like that and they’re done, they can’t take a punch anymore. And he said ‘No, I thought I was out of shape for those fights. But then when this happened I realized I can’t take a punch.’”
On Overeem’s NSAC troubles –
Kriegel asked is it a fighter problem or at some level is it a doctor problem? You can get a quack doctor to get you what you want, what you don’t know about – you have a doctor problem.”
Dana White: “It’s a fighter problem because if you get the quack doctor it means you don’t want to know about it. So what happens is, it’s very simple as we get older your body produces less and less testosterone. Testosterone replacement therapy is a great thing it’s actually, you know, science has come out with a way where you can replace that testosterone and it’s one hundred percent legal, if you’re up front and honest about it with the athletic commission and they test your levels. You’re supposed to be within this range (6-1). What’s happening now is, guys are using to cheat, of course. You know. Whenever there’s a way to cheat guys are using it.”
He went on to say, “So what these guys will do is they’ll train their whole training camp at these elevated levels, then bring it back down for the fight. So now what the athletic commission is doing is they’re bringing guys in and randomly testing them and there’s nothing wrong with (that).
What happened with Overeem is, he sat at a table just like this, told me and my partner ‘I’m the most tested athlete in all of sports they can test me whenever they want’ yadda yadda yadda. So he goes out and he pops at a 14 to 1 ratio.”
“I want to sit down with a guy who is one of my athletes who I consider my partner in this business that I’m in and I want you to be honest with me and tell me the truth. Don’t lie to me. And now he’s coming in and saying that he was taking these shots for anti-inflammatory. Then you should’ve told the athletic commission that.”
On May 5th and Mayweather –
Dana thinks it’s a great thing to have both shows on the same night. Since the UFC show will end before the Mayweather PPV, a person could theoretically sit around and watch people fight on TV all night long. Whether or not Mayweather should fight was a question Kriegel asked and after standing up for Las Vegas Dana responded with, “The judge that decided to let Floyd Mayweather not go to jail and fight instead, I mean, Floyd is very lucky to live in a city where they care more about money than justice. The craziest thing I have ever seen in my life.”
Asked if it had been a prominent UFC fighter, would he be allowed to fight, Dana said, “There’s no way in hell. There’s absolutely a double standard.”