Ahead of "UFC on Fox 6" this Saturday night, UFC President Dana White sat for a Q&A with SI's L. Jon Wertheim. Wertheim: “Through the years I’ve watched the UFC change beyond recognition, becoming positively mainstream. And, as reflected in this most recent sit-down, I’ve watched the league’s inimitable, singularly polarizing president change not at all.” Below are excerpts from the interview:
Q: What is this job in 2013?
White: What I’m focused on right now is this Fox deal. My full-time job is making sure this thing gets to where we want it to be.
Q: You told me once that women were pretty, and you didn’t want them fighting in the UFC.
White: At the end of the day, what everybody needs to understand about me is that I’m a fight fan. I’m a fight fanatic. I love fighting. Everybody wanted to come out and say it’s because Ronda Rousey is hot, and I got a crush on her. ... Gina Carano is hot too. Ronda Rousey is a different animal. Yes, she is pretty. She is also mean, she is nasty, and she likes to finish people. ... There are a lot of people who think that women’s fighting doesn’t belong in the UFC. Once they see Ronda Rousey fight, they’ll change their minds.
Q: Do you worry that 20 years from now, say, we’re going to see data that reveals head injuries and concussions in fighters in their 40s and 50s?
White: Here is the reality: Let’s say Tom Brady gets a concussion in the NFL. You going to pull Tom Brady out for the season? No. They’re going to do these tests where he can probably come back in 13, 14 days, whatever. You get a concussion in the UFC, you’re on a three-month suspension. That’s the difference. Yes, fighting is a contact sport. There are definitely risks. (But there) has never been a death in the almost 20-year history of the UFC. Are guys banged up and are their joints this, that and everything else? Yeah. But talk to any professional athlete. If you play at that level, it takes a toll on your body.
Q: You ready for a gay UFC fighter?
White: If somebody came out and said they were gay, I couldn’t care less. It would be interesting to see the reaction from other fighters, but I don’t think it would be that big a deal. We would probably get a lot more of the gay market tuning in to follow.
Q: There is a perception that the UFC leveled off in 2012.
White: Leveled off? Let me put it this way: Eight out of 13 main events fell through in 2012. If we could have pulled off the fights that were supposed to happen in 2012, we would have had an even better year. But eight of 13 main events fell out and we still had a kick-ass year. If that doesn’t show you that the UFC is here to stay, nothing will.
Q: How do you determine what fans are thinking about the product you’re putting out there?
White: Twitter. People can talk to you. There are a lot of things that I read from the fans. Some stuff that is stupid and makes absolutely no sense and other stuff that is very valid and that I agree with. The thing I love about Twitter is I can talk directly to the fans. There have been situations where I’ve been sitting in the arena that night and some guy’s tickets get screwed up. I can see it on Twitter and we fix it (SI, 1/28 issue).
LOCKED & LOADED: In N.Y., Marc Raimondi wrote ‘13 “might be the year that MMA gets to a new level.” The UFC on Saturday “will air its sixth show" on Fox. On Tuesday, it “debuted a new and improved version of its staple program ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ on FX.” Last week Bellator MMA Live “premiered on Spike TV and averaged almost one million viewers.” Raimondi: “If the injury bug stays away, the next few UFC cards are loaded” (NYPOST.com, 1/24).