(“Hey, before we do this whole ‘speech’ thing, can we hit up Hot Topic? I need to pick up some age-appropriate clothing.” VidProps: YouTube/Ariel Helwani)
We figure all you academic types will be interested to know that UFC President Dana White got the chance to address the prestigious (at least that’s how everybody keeps describing it) Oxford Union Society at Oxford University this week while in jolly ol’ Londontown to promote UFC 120. We’ve been led to believe this is a pretty big deal, as such luminaries as Malcolm X, Mother Teresa and Ronnie Reagan have all given talks there. Plus, at one of the world’s most highly-regarded institutions of higher learning you’d think Big DW might face a gamut of thought-provoking queries about any number of interesting topics – i.e. the moral and sociopolitical implications of his work, the level of discourse in his field and the health and safety of the athletes he relies upon to build his fortune. Yeah … not so much.
Your first clue that White is in for a comfy, Larry King-style lovefest with his Oxford peeps is when he takes the stage and asks if the students in attendance are UFC fans and all of them but one raise their hands. Then some guy (an American, from the sound of it) stands up and asks a question that basically translates to, “Dana, how have you managed to make the UFC so awesome?” and we’re off and running.
Frankly, we expected a little more critical thinking from you, Oxford. After the jump, some highlights from DW’s fireside chat, plus he sits down with Ariel Helwani to talk about the criticism of UFC 120, why he’s still pissed about UFC 119 and how there can never be too much MMA on television.
“Yeah, that’s pretty stupid,” is how White himself describes it when Helwani asks him how it feels to be joining the list of great thinkers who have addressed the Oxford Union Society. All modesty aside, when you get White in front of a captive audience there is basically no better advertising man this side of Don Draper. Seriously, dude is a natural born promoter and it’s hard not to kind of marvel at his ability to hold a room in the palm of his hand. Even a pre-Alzheimer’s Reagan had nothing on this guy.
Unfortunately, White doesn’t break a lot of new ground during his Oxford schmooze session. He does the same song and dance about how Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar saved “The Ultimate Fighter” and maybe the whole UFC with their crazy slobberknocker at the “TUF 1” finale. He talks about chasing Fedor all over the world to try to get his signature on a contact. He talks about how far the sport has come since he and the Fertitta Bros bought into it back in 2001 (“I was flying commercial,” he says of those early days. Commercial, *snort* can you believe it?) and about how long he’ll remain the face of the UFC (“My exit strategy is death.”).
“It’s also about having big balls,” White comments, talking about the mountain of debt the UFC piled up trying to get its vision for MMA off the ground. “When you’re in (the hole) $44 million and you have to keep writing those checks? These guys (the Fertittas) had the balls to invest in this thing. These guys had a lot of smart guys working for them in the casino business and we were the redheaded stepchild of the business portfolio. Everybody kept telling these guys, ‘You’re insane, you’re gonna lose all your money, this thing is never going to work.’ But we stuck with it and we kept grinding.”
And … scene.
During his talk with Helwani in front of a couple of picturesque racks of appropriately old books (Note to self: You look way smarter when framed by a bunch of old books) White admits he was perhaps even more angry about Frank Mir‘s and Mirko CroCop’s lackluster main event at UFC 119 than he was about Anderson Silva’s performance in Abu Dhabi, but that he never seriously considered cutting Mir.
“I don’t know how you really clear the air,” he says of that fight. “They both know how I felt and I’m pretty sure I know how they feel. It is what it is.”
He also discussed the on-going criticism of these sub-standard overseas UFC cards, sort of blaming it all on a cadre of bloggers with an axe to grind (He means us, I guess). White also says that by the time the UFC secures programming deals in India and China, there’s gonna be so much MMA on TV that it’s gonna blow our minds. Great, can’t wait to live blog those Beijing broadcasts at 2 a.m.
“You’re going have this group of people on the Internet with agendas or whatever their deal is,” White says about the general disapproval of the UFC 120 lineup. (Ed. Note: Agendas, or they just don’t like the card. Either way.) “When you look at how many fights we put on a year, every card isn’t going to be Georges St. Pierre vs. Anderson Silva. As a fight fan, there’s going to be cards that people love and cards that people say, ‘This is OK,’ and cards that people don’t like. You know what the answer to that is? It’s free, on SpikeTV. If you don’t like it, don’t watch it.”
Here’s the footage: