With UFC 157 approaching, I had a chance to talk to UFC President Dana White about how having a woman as it's biggest rising star is changing the company, as well as his thoughts on this season of The Ultimate Fighter.
Examiner: You guys have been putting on some great shows lately, most recently UFC 156. That card was filled with upsets, a pretty crazy night. How did you feel about the event?
White: It was a great show. Last year we had probably the worst year in the history of the company, you know at least since we started doing good things. Something like 11 of 17 main events fell out due to injury. We hung in there and this year has been off to a great start. We always do the prelims on FX, and the prelims for that card were the most viewed in the history of FX. We had almost 2,000,000 viewers just for the prelims. We have been on a tear lately. I couldn't be more pumped.
Examiner: Is there any way you guys can make Jose Aldo and Frank Edgar fight every month? That fight was amazing!
White: It was amazing, and now we have announced that Anthony Pettis and Jose Aldo are going to fight. I think those guys are going to go at it, and that might be just as great of a fight.
Examiner: I have heard a rumor about that fight possibly taking place here in Texas? Any truth to that?
White: Yep, very possibly. We are looking at Chicago, Texas, Las Vegas or Rio de Janeiro for that fight. I don't want to lock it down to one site yet, but Texas is definitely in the running for that fight.
Examiner: We are still waiting on the big show at Cowboy Stadium down here. Really hoping you can bring Anderson Silva and Georges St. Pierre to that building.
White: Me too, A.J. Me too. We are still working on trying to make that happen. I promise you.
Examiner: Talk a little about this season of The Ultimate Fighter. First of all, I think this season is really intriguing just because of the Jon Jones - Chael Sonnen dynamic, but I also think this thing is just loaded with really good talent, which seems to have been scarce the past couple seasons.
White: You just hit on it right there. The coaches are great, but the talent is what is really making this season. You know, obviously the highlight of the season so far has been the Urijah Hall knockout, and something like that is tough to top. I can count on one hand knockouts that vicious that I have seen since I have been in the business. Tre Telligman, Terry Etim, Evan Tanner, those are only three of the guys I can think of off the top of my head that have matched that knockout. But I really believe all the fights on this season are great and all the talent is great.
Examiner: I know last season had to be disappointing for you. It seemed like everyone was there playing it safe. You were getting frustrated about the lack of finishes. There weren't a lot of exciting fights. This season seems like it's a more exciting product.
White: Yep, no doubt about it. It's a great season. I'm proud of it. I don't know if you have noticed the production changes, but we think it looks a lot better. The fights are great. We brought in families for the opening round of fights, which we thought was pretty cool. Overall, I am really happy with what we did this season.
Examiner: Talk about Ronda Rousey for a minute. There was a time when you said there would never be a woman in the UFC, and you have obviously changed your stance on that. How excited are you for this new era of the UFC.
White: I am excited. I really am. I don't know if you guys saw the interview she just did with HBO Real Sports. You should go check it out on YouTube if you haven't. She really has an incredible story. She has been doing Judo since she was 6. She went to Beijing and medaled. After she won the Olympics she had no job, no training, and had never had a job. She gravitated towards MMA. In her 9 fights counting her amateur career she is undefeated and has been in the cage for around 9 minutes and 25 seconds.
Examiner: The biggest women's fight to date has been Gina Carano and Cyborg Santos. I know Cyborg has been released from her UFC contract, but it seems the door has been left open for her to come back eventually when she can work her weight down. Is that a fight you still want to make happen?
White: We will see what happens. Rousey is the 135 pound champion. Cyborg has said she can't make 135, and she is still suspended for PED use. The reality is, Ronda holds all the cards there. If she decides she wants to move up and fight Cyborg after she takes care of business here, that's up to her.
Examiner: Do you think the UFC is getting the mainstream coverage that it deserves at this point?
White: A lot of the media has come around. USA Today covers us big time. ESPN is much better at covering us now than they were. The LA Times covers us. Most of the major papers in the major markets cover us. It has been a battle, but it is really coming around now.
Examiner: You guys recently announced that you guys are going to have official UFC rankings. How closely are you going to follow those when making match ups? Is that going to be the primary factor or will you still take into account marketability of fights and things like that?
White: We looked at it like this. Every sport has a ranking system. We thought it would be cool to get some top media guys to do this and put together some rankings. I think it is cool, but at the end of the day I have to worry about putting on fights that people want to see.
Examiner: Talk a little about the card this Saturday on Fuel TV.
White: I think it's a great card. I think Renan Barao is really one of the most exciting guys out there, and I think Mike McDonald is a great matchup for him. I really like the Swanson - Poirier fight. I think it will be a really fun show.
Examiner: Dana, thanks for the time and look forward to catching up again soon.
White: Anytime. Thank you for all the support as always.