By Lorenzo Luciano:
The photo posted by CagePotato.com which implied that Dana White was wagering on Jon Jones in this week’s upcoming fight, was not taken lightly by many, including a very upset Rashad Evans. Although CagePotato.com insisted that it was humorous, they issued a retraction.
The UFC had to scramble to answer many questions including questions from a very upset Rash Evans.
Lorenzo Fertitta had this to say on the call from Rashad (via USA Today), “Dana had to talk to Rashad on the phone for 30 minutes to calm him down, to tell him, ‘Are you crazy? There’s no way I would ever bet on a fight or bet against you,’ ”
“We had a flurry of people contacting us through e-mail, Twitter,” says Lorenzo Fertitta, CEO of UFC parent Zuffa. “Rashad throwing a complete fit … and then Dana having to call him to calm him down. If (people) thought it was just satire, we wouldn’t have had that reaction.”
In an interview with Fertitta and UFC’s chief marketing officer, USA TODAY’S Brian Johnston got the following responses to his questions concerning this issue.
Clearly this is a very serious issue for you. Why is it such a serious thing for UFC?
Fertitta: Because these guys flatout lied. They just made up a story and lied. Somebody who doesn’t know what our policies are and what we do, they could look at it in a very negative light.
A lot of people out there already don’t even understand how the fight business works with regulation and everything, and for these guys to come out and make a statement like that, that is an extremely slanderous statement that potentially harms us in a big way.
The other thing too that you’ve got to understand is the fallout that you have. These fighters are already paranoid enough. Dana had to talk to Rashad on the phone for 30 minutes to calm him down, to tell him, “Are you crazy? There’s no way I would ever bet on a fight or bet against you.”
These guys go out and do this reckless reporting — it’s not even reporting — make these reckless statements and they end up causing us fallout and having to deal with issues. Why should we even have to deal with this stuff? They made this up and lied and put it online.
Their counterargument is that it was just satire and that most people clearly understood it as such. Why is that an insufficient explanation?
Fertitta: Because we know what the outcome was. We had a flurry of people contacting us through e-mail, Twitter. Rashad throwing a complete fit and talking to Caren Bell, and then Dana having to call him to calm him down. If (people) thought it was just satire, we wouldn’t have had that reaction.
Johnston: And it’s really a weak argument to hide behind, satire. If tomorrow we put out an article online that said you were a pedophile and it went worldwide, it doesn’t matter what kind of satire that is — how do you unwind that?
You don’t, but I think …
Fertitta: Yeah, you don’t.
Where you do you draw the line? If someone’s telling a joke and it just happens to be a bad joke, is that reason enough to…
Fertitta: But it didn’t even read like a joke. It didn’t read like a joke at all. If you look at the article, when you first read that, it sounds like that they were in a room with Dana, talking to him, and he says, “Oh,” and he kind of made a mistake and said something, and said “Don’t print that.”
To me — and I’m a pretty educated guy, I read the paper every day, one of the people that still reads the paper …
Fertitta: …if I read an article like that, I would seriously believe that that actually happened and that went down.
It wasn’t like it was a cartoon of Dana, with him blurbing something out in his head, with a bubble. It was put in print like a regular article.
They issued a retraction on their website. Does it satisfy your demands?
Fertitta: We’re currently evaluating whether it’s sufficient or not. Like I said, there’s been a massive amount of fallout in the wake of them putting out something that is completely reckless in the way that they did. I don’t understand how anybody could defend what they did. It’s a very serious allegation.
For them to even joke that Dana made a wager of that magnitude on one fighter versus another fighter is something that could have tremendous negative implications for the industry, for our company and a lot of different things.
When you say there’s been tremendous fallout already, you’re referring to social-media feedback, as well as what you’ve heard from fighters and people of that nature?
Fertitta: Social media feedback. Fighters. Rashad himself.
Play this out: What if on Saturday night there’s a controversial decision that goes to Jon Jones? Which obviously is completely out of our hands. What if that happens? Can you imagine the fervor and the fallout that there would be? It would be a complete disaster.
When will your legal folks complete their evaluation of what you may or may not do next?
Fertitta: This just happened. We just got back from the fight in Stockholm.
You’ve got to understand, Rashad’s entire team — his entire camp — was in his ear telling him they read this online and that Dana bet half a million dollars against him.
This was a real issue. This isn’t just some kind of slap on the back, funny little joke. This was reckless reporting on their part.
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