Just about everything that Dana White says is considered gospel in the MMA world today by many of its fans and even media. There could be many reasons for this, all coinciding with his iron fist and control over the sport. A monopoly over the sport of MMA known as the UFC, which Dana White controls, sure has its advantages for the fans but it also comes with some unfortunate disadvantages.
In fairness we should go over the clear advantages Dana White possesses. There is of course the advantage of signing most of the major fighters in the sport. This is a clear advantage of absolute control which in turn gives them full fight cards each Pay-Per-View night. The UFC controlling all the fighters is the equivalent of Top Rank owning all of their fighters along with Golden Boy’s, and all the minor promoters around the world. While I don’t believe this business model is going to last forever, enjoy the ride for now MMA fans, I do believe it’s produced MMA’s growth over the last decade.
But this isn’t about the business aspect of MMA. This is about the unfortunate disadvantage for the true fans of MMA that goes beyond business and growth of the sport. Dana White’s iron first rule and ability to give fans many great fights has turned him into a tyrant type character. The man has changed over the years. If you don’t believe me all you have to do is watch the shy soft spoken promoter from a decade ago, and compare him to the F-Bomb maniac he’s turned into today.
Getting the credit for saving the sport of MMA from its lowest point sure has its luxury. Let’s be fair he did take a chance, with Zuffa’s money, on the UFC. The investments that Zuffa made to turn the sport around is sure noted.
His utter hatred for Fedor Emelianenko is one of the reasons I care about this. The man will tear apart any fighter that ever made a name for himself outside the UFC. Let’s really review the case of Fedor for a moment. Dana White has claimed that Fedor was nothing but an over hyped fighter by the media that never really amounted to anything. He’s called the fact that Fedor was ever ranked among the top Pound-for-Pound fighters in the world “ridiculous” and “stupid”.
The UFC is already the largest company in MMA history so what’s the purpose of trashing Fedor? Is there an agenda or just sheer hatred on part of Dana White? Let’s look at this honestly and with a clear mind for a moment. Obviously Dana White fan boys are going to believe whatever comes out of this man’s mouth. Most of these are new UFC fans who don’t look past the major company and just like Dana White, look at anything that’s been accomplished outside the company as inferior.
Let me first say that even if everything Dana White says about Fedor Emelianenko is true it still wouldn’t justify his sheer hatred and disdain for the man. What he says isn’t true, I’ll prove that, but even if it was; what’s with the hatred? If Fedor was just some overhyped fighter that never really accomplished anything significant in MMA then why worry about him so much? Why try hard to sign him to the UFC and claim to have offered him very good money? His scapegoat is that he tried to get Fedor over because the fans were making a big deal over this overhyped fighter, of course.
There was an opportunity to get Fedor in the Octagon but Dana White refused to co-promote with M1-Global, who had Fedor under contract. While I understand why Dana White refused to co-promote with M1-Global , it sure shows a clear double standard when it comes to him judging the sport of boxing. He refused to co-promote because it would expose another MMA brand and if Fedor beat his then champion, it would have been devastating for the UFC. This of course could raise big red flags in the future if a dominant fighter you can’t deny, like Jon Jones or Anderson Silva, sign with another company for more money and other talent follows. It has happened with every other major sport in America (Google Free Agency, Player Unions, Ali Act… ect).
Fedor tried to be this dominant fighter that was not going to be pushed about by the Zuffa machine. This actually looked promising for Fedor at the start of his campaign. As we know after the fall of PRIDE FC, which Zuffa purchased for about 70 Million, the UFC became the dominant global player. This purchase created a lot of great fights with PRIDE fighters crossing over to the UFC, and many of them finding much success inside the Octagon. Fedor however did not go to the UFC and signed with M1-Global instead. The beginning of this journey started with some marquee fights, where he knocked out not one but two former UFC Heavyweight Champions, Tim Sylva and Andre Arlovski, in the now defunct Affliction. Yes you read that right, he knocked out two former UFC Heavyweight Champions, the very company that Dana White says Fedor couldn’t compete in.
After the fall of Affliction, Zuffa tried to aquire Fedor but negotiations fell through since they refused to co-promote with M1-Global. Fedor took his talents to Strikeforce where he struggled against then-undefeated Bret Rogers. Although he won the fight it was clear that the aura of invincibility was no longer there with Fedor. He then got caught in a submission against one of the best ground fighters in the game in Farbicio Werdum, followed by Knockout losses to Antonio Silva and Dan Henderson.
The fall of “The Last Emperor” came at Dana White’s joy. He had some ruthless words for Fedor after each one of those losses. The fall of Fedor delayed the inevitable future for MMA fighters. If Fedor had won those three matches, Zuffa would have possibly been forced to co-promote with M1-Global to have Fedor in the Octagon. Beyond having full control over his contract Fedor Emelianenko was also pushing for random blood testing for his fights, an issue Dana White has openly been against.
This wasn’t about Fedor being an over hyped fighter that the media miraculously created, this was about Dana White not liking the way Fedor was conducting business. In Dana White’s point of view the sport wouldn’t even exist without him, so any fighter who chooses not to sign to Zuffa’s terms is not falling in line.
For the new UFC fans that take everything Dana White says as gospel, it’s time to really look into this issue and why it’s more than just Dana White acting childish. Let’s take a true unbiased look into memory lane for a moment.
Fedor Emelianenko was the PRIDE FC Heavyweight Champion. What Dana White doesn’t want you to know is that at one time PRIDE had better talent than the UFC in the Heavyweight Division. The only proof I need is Fedor’s record against former UFC Heavyweight Champions. The list of fighters he defeated in his career include, a prime Antonio Nogueira (twice), Heith Herring, Ricardo Arona, Renato Sobral, Gary Goodridge, Mark Coleman, Kevin Randleman, Mirko Fiipovic, Mark Hunt, Matt Lindland, Tim Sylvia and Andre Arlovski. (List includes 5 former UFC Heavyweight Champions) This of course is just the known names he fought but he had other fights against different fighters with different styles throughout his dominant reign in PRIDE. You can nit-pick if you want but at one time he was the best Heavyweight in the World. A juiced up Josh Barnett got suspended for steroids when he was scheduled to face Fedor. Alistair Overeem refused to fight Fedor when random blood testing was put on the negotiation table as well. Does he have scrubs in his record – like Dana White likes to point out – yes, but you can’t ignore who he did fight and beat. Recently, the faded Fedor won two fights against Jeff Monson and Pedro Rizzo and then announced his retirement from the sport.
What happened to Fedor Emelianenko? How did he fall from his dominant ways? The same thing that happens to all fighters when they fight past their prime; he’s a battle tested warrior. While the sport has evolved, I don’t see many young MMA Heavyweights who compare to Fedor in his prime. I think a prime Fedor versus current UFC Champion Dos Santos would be rather interesting.
Even if you think Fedor is overrated, I just don’t see how you can argue that he was garbage, as Dana White has suggested. Why didn’t Dana White call his cash-cow and UFC exclusive fighter Brock Lesnar a fraud when he got dismantled against Cain Velazquez, then embarrassed by Alistair Overeem? Could you imagine Fedor covering up in the fetal position while someone rained punches down on him?
Fedor never wanted weak opposition as Dana White would lead you to believe. His record consists of high-class ground fighters and strikers. It’s clear he tried to fight the best. I already touched on the fall of his fight with former UFC Champion and King of Pancrase Josh Barnett, who was ranked in the top 3 in the world at that time, due to Barnett failing a pre-fight drug test. He also tried to negotiate a fight with Alistair Overeem but post random blood testing was declined, and even then he was scheduled to meet him if he had beaten “Big Foot” Antonio Silva. He also tried to fight “The Natural” Randy Couture, who was the reigning UFC Champion at the time. Couture had a contract dispute with the UFC and had even threatened to retire if the UFC didn’t let him fight elsewhere. After Fedor knocked out Tim Sylva, Randy Couture met him for a face off where both fighters expressed interest in fighting each other. Dana White became the only obstacle in the way of making that fight happen.
So with who he fought and who he tried to fight alone, you just can’t deny the man. What’s sad is that Dana White’s rule and iron fist will not allow people to remember Fedor for what he was in the early and mid-2000’s, where he was the most dominating force in the game. Dana White would rather the UFC brand name rule over the sport’s history. They’re okay with ignoring Kazushi Sakuraba’s history and calling Yushin Okami the greatest Japanese fighter of all time. Dana White is perfectly fine with Frank Shamrock not being in the UFC Hall of Fame just because of some childish beef.
The truth is, it’s all about control to Dana White. Keep the fighters in line to keep your machine growing and who’s to question him? Every other MMA promotional company that dared challenge them has completely failed up to this point. As long as the UFC keeps their fans happy there isn’t going to be much outrage about this. The sad part is that he doesn’t need to act like this to bring success to the UFC. If anything, ignoring the rich MMA history outside the UFC only hurts them. You can’t ignore where you came from and you can’t ignore history. Pretending that Fedor was never the most dominant force in history is simply ignoring history.
How can the UFC celebrate Royce Gracie, Ken Shamrock and Tito Ortiz, all whom eventually got beat handily when they were once considered dominating figures, yet ignore Fedor? Even a proven UFC great in Chuck Liddell ended up getting knocked out repeatedly at the end of the road. Why rob new fans of the rich history of the fighters who helped your sport grow. Whether Dana White likes it or not, not everything happened in the UFC during MMA’s growth.
It’s simple, after years of blood, sweat, and tears there is no need for Fedor to be forgotten and ignored by the largest MMA promotional company today. What else does Fedor need other than the approval of his fellow peers anyway? Fighters always praised “The Last Emperor” as a great fighter.