With rumors of a UFC sale abound and the prospect of longtime UFC President Dana White actually stepping down from his position actually possible, there may not be a better time than now to look back and reflect on all of the game-changing, evolving, and impactful changes White has made upon the UFC and the sport of MMA as a whole.
However, this article is not the place to do that.
No, despite all of the absolutely positive and furthering changes, implementations, and improvements White has made during his nearly 20-year tenure with the UFC, he’s built up quite the long list of people in the sport that have angered him quite a bit.
For better or worse, some were right, some were wrong, and some of those people were able to mend the fence with the most powerful man in MMA. Others still remain on the boss man’s proverbial naughty list, and they may indeed never recover.
It’s been a wild ride for White, and it may or may not be close to being over. Let’s take a look back at the people in MMA that angered Dana White the most.
Georges St. Pierre:
Kicking off our list of people who have outraged White is none other than longtime former UFC welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre.
St. Pierre ran afoul of White when his corner was accused of greasing him during his UFC 94 win over BJ Penn, but the real beef arose when St. Pierre semi-retired following his incredibly controversial split decision win over Johny Hendricks in the main event of UFC 167 in November 2013.
White was absolutely outraged when “GSP” stepped down from the sport after citing the need to take a break for personal reasons, stating that the all-time great simply could not do that:
“Georges St. Pierre took almost a year-and-a-half off, and he’s had two fights since then because he blew his ACL out. When you fight in this sport, there’s a small window of opportunity for people, and there’s a lineup right now of people that want a shot at that 170-pound title. You can’t just say, ‘I’m gonna take off and put this on hold because I have personal problems.’ You can’t do that. No you cannot.”
A story also arose that the UFC took St. Pierre’s belt while he was in the shower after his win over Hendricks, not exactly the most shining treatment of one of your greatest stars.
Two-and-a-half years have now passed since St. Pierre vacated his belt, and he’s apparently ready to return to the Octagon if he and the UFC can reach an agreement on his contract terms. With a boatload of money to be made, something tells me that White and St. Pierre should be able to settle their differences.
Former UFC heavyweight and light heavyweight champion Randy “The Natural” Couture is undoubtedly one of the promotion’s most storied competitors from its coming-of-age period in the early 2000s. But that doesn’t mean he was able to stay off the list of people who have outraged White.
Couture rattled the cage of the notoriously hotheaded president when he left the UFC following his UFC 74 title defense over Gabriel Gonzaga. Couture wanted to be paid more for his bouts – still a very common occurrence among fighters even today – but White believed that Couture had gone ‘Hollywood.’
The two sides eventually reached an agreement for Couture to return to the Octagon at UFC 91 in November 2008, where “The Natural” dropped the belt to megastar Brock Lesnar.
White may not have been all too angry about that loss, as Lesnar became arguably the biggest draw to ever fight in the Octagon.
It wouldn’t be a list of people who had outraged Whit without this American Kickboxing Academy (AKA) flagship member who, along with his teammates, famously ran afoul of White by refusing to sign over their likenesses to be used in UFC video games and other media avenues. The AKA fighters were unceremoniously cut from the UFC shortly thereafter, and despite them being at the top of the fight game at the time, it took UFC co-owner Lorenzo Fertitta to reinstate the athletes.
Calmer heads prevailed in that instance, but Fitch continued to anger White by refusing to fight his teammate Josh Koscheck, who was obviously a top welterweight when Fitch was playing second fiddle to Georges St. Pierre for years.
Fitch got his title shot at “GSP” but lost, and not surprisingly didn’t sniff another shot at gold for the rest of his UFC career.
Towards the tail end of his UFC stint, Fitch fought to a draw with BJ Penn, got knocked out by Johny Hendricks in 12 seconds, beat Erick Silva, and lost in dominant fashion to touted grappler Demian Maia, which earned him an unceremonious release from the promotion despite his shining record.
It was a controversial move that no doubt prompted Fitch, who has since rebounded by becoming the current World Series of Fighting (WSOF) welterweight champion, to become heavily entrenched in the current ant-trust lawsuit leveled against UFC owners Zuffa LLC for allegedly creating a monopoly in the sport of MMA.
Koscheck was no doubt involved with AKA’s highly publicized likeness right scene, but he’s done a lot more to outrage White as well.
While he’s seen better times in his career after five straight losses resulted in the UFC not re-signing him following a submission loss to Erick Silva, Koscheck has kept his criticism of White at the forefront of his media appearances.
The former title challenger and current Bellator fighter took to the airwaves to blast White by calling him the Fertitta brothers’ “errand bitch” in an interview with Bleacher Report last year:
“This is just my opinion, but I think Dana is just the front boy for the Fertittas,” said Koscheck. “He’s their little errand b—h. They’re losing fans every day because of the things he does. The UFC has done a great job. They built this sport. They put a lot of dollars in, and they took a lot of risk. I can respect the fact that he works his ass off. But there are other things that I can’t respect.”
Like his teammate Fitch, Koscheck has also continued to criticize UFC fighter pay, namely their controversial sponsorship deal with Reebok, and indeed that animosity has lead to heated altercations with White. The exec confirmed that things even got physical on “The Herd” with Colin Cowherd:
“Josh Koscheck and I had a really good one a couple weeks ago. When you’re the boss of 600 ultimate fighters, you know. Guys have threatened to get physical many times, but, you know, we work it out.”
Given that “Kos” is out of the UFC and unlikely to ever return, in this case, they didn’t really work it out.
This controversial former UFC heavyweight champion is another fighter whom White said would never fight in the UFC again. While that has obviously been proven false after several years, “The Warmaster” remains a fighter who had firmly supplanted himself on White’s bad side at one point.
The discord centered on Barnett’s three positive tests for performance-enhancing substances (although not all of them were in UFC), for which White claimed he never owned up to. The main offense came when Barnett won the belt from Randy Couture way back in 2002, only to have it stripped following a positive test. White was outraged that Barnett never admitted his mistake, and said he would never fight in the UFC again.
Barnett would go on to have a very successful career outside of the UFC, and the beef was apparently squashed when Barnett finally returned to the UFC in late 2013. But with two losses in his last three bouts at 38 years old, it’s safe to say his career could have been so much more if not for the drug test failures and subsequent beef with White.
White’s main problem with the leader of Albuquerque’s wildly successful Jackson-Winkeljohn MMA stemmed from his star pupil Jon Jones’ refusal to fight Chael Sonnen on eight days’ notice at September 2012’s UFC 151 after his original opponent Dan Henderson withdrew, leading to the UFC’s first outright cancellation of a pay-per-view (PPV) event.
Jackson advised Jones, who at the time had won four straight light heavyweight title bouts, to not face the usual middleweight Sonnen due to the contrast in styles to the knockout-focused “Hendo,” inciting a media windfall and a trademark blowup from White.
The president publically called Jackson “a f***** sport ruiner,” conveniently leaving out the fact that the UFC had failed to put together a card that could lose its main event and still go on. Not his finest moment. Jackson steered clear of engaging with White in the headlines, and has since gone on to quietly prove he is still one of the best coaches in MMA.
No shortage of prominent MMA journalists have fueled the anger of White, and one of the most glaring examples was Sports Illustrated’s Loretta Hunt, who remains banned by the promotion to this day.
Hunt apparently made White’s blood boil with a story about fighters’ managers being unable to be in the dressing room with their athletes, which White obviously found to be false in his eyes, blasting Hunt with the following brutal outburst:
“Hey Loretta, if you’re going to write a story, you f—in’ moron, at least make sure it’s f—in’ true and you have some facts in there,” he ranted. “And if you’re gonna’ put some f—in’ quotes in there, get some quotes from people who at least have the f—in’ balls to put their f—in’ name on it. You f—in’ b—-. F— you, Loretta Hunt.”
Ouch. The story has remained entrenched in MMA media ever since, and serves as both a harrowing bit of foreshadowing and an uncomfortable reminder to the next member of the MMA media who was unfortunate enough to anger Dana White….
As MMA’s most prominent, well-recognized, and now, controversial journalist, MMA Fighting’s Ariel Helwani found himself at the center of a controversy that overshadowed even many of the sport’s biggest headlines when he was unceremoniously escorted out of UFC 199 in Inglewood, California, earlier this month (June 4, 2016).
The strange scenario erupted from Helwani’s breaking of former heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar’s pending return at July’s UFC 200, a blockbuster announcement that was supposed to serve as a shocking surprise during a promo aired during UFC 199.
But Helwani had broken the story hours earlier, so the UFC 200 promo that featured Lesnar at the tail end was merely confirmation of Helwani’s earlier announcement, which had by that time gone viral all over the web. White and his team of employees had Helwani, his photographer Esther Lin, and his videographer E. Casey Leydon kicked out of the event, with security even walking them to their car to make sure they left.
While there were many schools of thought on the huge unfolding, the most common one was that White had simply thrown a fit on a reporter who had scooped him before his big reveal, and the online community lashed out in support of Helwani. Realizing this, the UFC soon granted Helwani his credentials again, although White has since said they are still not on good terms.
This popular but polarizing Stockton bad boy has ran afoul of White on more than one occasion, but never more so than when he skipped a promotional press conference for his scheduled UFC 137 showdown with then-champion Georges St. Pierre.
Diaz was making his way back to the UFC as the Strikeforce welterweight champ, and the rekindling of their relationship certainly got off to a rocky start, to say the least. An outraged White promptly removed Diaz from the main event bout, replacing him with top contender Carlos Condit. When St. Pierre tore his ACL in training and was removed himself, Diaz actually fought and beat BJ Penn in an impromptu UFC 137 main event.
That is actually his last UFC and MMA win, as the outspoken Diaz has fought the best in the world ever since and come up short. He’s now coming off of a ridiculous five-year suspension from the NSAC that was reduced to 18 months, and with the Diaz name more popular than it ever has been in MMA, Nick is going to be someone that the president can probably look past his differences with in order to bring in more boatloads of cash.
Other than the aforementioned Helwani, there may be no other person in MMA to have outraged White more recently than former UFC women’s bantamweight champion Holly Holm’s longtime manager Lenny Fresquez.
After Holm devastatingly knocked out popular superstar Ronda Rousey at 2015’s UFC 193, Holm was the talk of the MMA world with a massive pending rematch with Rousey set to be arguably the biggest fight in MMA history. But Holm and Fresquez decided they wanted to fend the belt before Rousey returned. So Holm took on consensus No. 1 contender Miesha Tate in the co-main event of UFC 196, and things got messy there.
After losing one round on the ground but otherwise winning the fight standing, Holm gave up a fifth-round takedown and was subsequently locked in a fight-ending rear-naked choke by Tate. Afterwards, White spoke up to ESPN’s Russillo & Kanell with his brash opinion of Fresquez, noting that he “wasn’t smart:
“The sad part about that is, listen, he’s an old boxing guy who thinks he’s smart, and he’s not. It’s one of those things. I feel bad about it. I feel bad for Holly. I don’t know if Holly really knows what she lost. I think she has so much faith in the people that surround her, she feels like, ‘Well, they got me this far.’
“We had this meeting, and Holly wasn’t even in it. Holly, that’s your life. You should be in that meeting. Don’t leave it to these people. Anyway, Holly made a lot of money. She accomplished great things, she beat Ronda Rousey. But it could have been so much bigger for her, and the sad part is, I don’t think she even knows it.”
Tate also chastised Fresquez for calling her a “tune-up fight,” and based on the results, it’s hard to argue with that view. Holm will now attempt to rebound against Valentina Shevchenko in the main event of July 23’s UFC on FOX 20 from Chicago, but it could have been so, so much bigger.
Perhaps no one has drawn the public ire of White more than Vadim Finkelstein, the leader of all-time great Fedor Emelianenko’s M-1 Global management.
White famously attempted to get “The Last Emperor” to sign with the UFC for years, with meeting even reportedly taking place on a remote island to negotiate a potential bout with then-UFC heavyweight champ Brock Lesnar at Texas’ Dallas Cowboys Stadium was proposed as one of the biggest potential bouts in UFC history.
However, talks between the two sides proved fruitless, as White was unwilling to relent on the stance that the UFC would simply not co-promote with M-1 Global, while Fedor and his team insisted White was repeatedly disrespectful to them.
The negotiation ended in a standstill, and Emelianenko ultimately made his way to Strikeforce, where his once-untouchable record took a massive hit following losses to Fabricio Werdum, Antonio Silva, and Dan Henderson.
For his part, White took to calling Finkelstein “Vadummy” on a regular basis in the media. Emelianenko has since parted ways with M-1 Global, and even though his skills are clearly deteriorating at 38, White has once gain expressed interest in finally signing “The Last Emperor” to the UFC.
There’s simply no other man who could be included on this list of people who have angered Dana White than longtime former UFC light heavyweight champion Tito Ortiz.
That fact is illustrated by the truth that the two once had an actual boxing match scheduled. While it never took place, the beef between White and Ortiz was real. That was illustrated by a scrum White did during a screening of his 2014 boxing reality show ‘The Fighters,’ (courtesy of MMA Fighting’s Luke Thomas) where White alleged he pulled out of the fight because he knew he was going to lose, and lose badly, as White had “beat the s*** out of Tito” during training back in the early days of White’s UFC stint:
“I had to go through all the stuff with the commission, which I still to this day believe, it created a lot of bad animosity between me and the commission trying to get licensed for that fight. But they did it. They licensed me. I went through all the medical testing, everything, and then Tito ends up bailing on that thing the day of the weigh-ins.
“Believe me, I’m not trying to sound like a tough guy and I don’t talk about the thing a lot, but I was ready, in great shape and Tito bailed on that thing because Tito knew he was going to get his ass whooped on national television.”
“Tito had Jenna [Jameson] call negotiating like two weeks before the fight that he wanted to switch it to no head gear.
“Because this was supposed to be an amateur fight. So, he wanted to switch to no head gear. I said, ‘Fine. We’ll go no head gear.’ They wanted to switch to 8 ounce gloves. I said, ‘Ok, we can do 8 ounce gloves.’
“The reality is I used to beat the living s–t out of Tito Ortiz back when we first bought this company and we used to box.”
As a sort of pioneer for fighters speaking out for better pay in the early years of the Zuffa era, Ortiz famously dubbed fighters “slaves” to the UFC, a sentiment that has obviously been echoed countless times by countless fighters ever since.
With eight losses in his last 12 fights, Ortiz has certainly gone through a rough patch in his career at 41 years old, but at one point he was arguably the face of the UFC when he held the record for most consecutive title defenses at 205 pounds. That didn’t buy any immunity for “The People’s Champ,” however, as White was willing to routinely blast Ortiz and his ex-wife, porn star Jenna Jameson, on Twitter as he had so many other unwitting souls.
The beef has since cooled down, but it’s safe to say no other person in MMA has outraged White more than Ortiz once did.