Clad in a black PRIDE shirt and jeans, UFC president Dana White sat down with Ariel Helwani for a special edition of UFC Tonight Tuesday, his first full-length interview since last month’s debacle that resulted in the cancellation of UFC 151 and the public attack on one of his biggest stars, Jon Jones.
Helwani asked White about a myriad of subjects, including his thoughts on Jones now, whether he has any regrets on how he handled the situation, Chris Weidman’s next fight and how close we are to seeing Anderson Silva vs. Georges St. Pierre.
From the interview, read some of the top quotes and storyline threads after the jump…
On why he was so emotional upon the cancellation of UFC 151:
“I had my moment where I was upset. One of the things that I like is our consistency. We’ve never cancelled an event. People don’t realize the collateral damage that goes on and how many people who are depending on these events to go on. Not just the fighters and the UFC. So many other people who work for, and are invested, in these shows and this is the first time we’ve ever cancelled one, so that’s a little emotional.”
He also bristled at the idea he said something bad about Jones, saying, “What did I say about Jon Jones that was so horrible?” He added that he has no regrets about how he handled everything, including the event cancellation.
On Dan Henderson’s role in this whole ordeal:
White agreed with Helwani that Jones was not solely to blame for everything and especially was irritated with Henderson not filling him in sooner.
“Dan Henderson knew two weeks before the fight. Two weeks before he told me he was injured, he knew. And if he had given me those two weeks, like he should have, this fight might have happened.”
On Greg Jackson:
White continued his assault on Greg Jackson, saying that he is a businessman and brought up the conflict that Rashad Evans and Jones had several years ago that saw Evans leave Jackson’s gym. White mocked Jackson’s comments about his team being a family and said, “If things goes bad for you tomorrow, brother Greg isn’t going to pay your bills and take care of your real family.”
He brought up that Jackson went with who he thought could win against the other and that was Jones. At one point, White said, “Trainers don’t make fighters. Talented fighters make trainers and that’s a fact.”
On his relationship with Jones today:
“We haven’t talked since the incident. I’ve got no animosity towards Jones. We’ll find out how our relationship is as we move on. This thing is a little weird. It’s never happened before. Jon is a young guy and he’s made mistakes that young people make. Who doesn’t at his age? If I went back to being 23 years old with a ton of fame and a ton of money, that’s when you make all your mistakes. The great thing about making your mistakes in your 20s is by the time you’re established yourself in your late 20s and 30s, you’ve already made all your mistakes and you can conduct yourself the way you should.
“I give Jon Jones a lot of slack. The guy is young. I’m never going to tell you because Jon Jones didn’t fight in 151 that he’s a terrible fighter. He’s a phenomenal fighter. Anyone who’s watched the UFC long enough and knows my personality, they know how I am. I’ve dealt with the baddest dudes in the world for the last 12 years and that’s what I like doing. I like fighters. I like how they think. They can be a little hard to deal with, but that’s part of the game.”
On whether Jones had asked White to make Sonnen back off on calling him out:
“I don’t think so. I don’t believe so, no. I honestly don’t remember if he did, but I don’t think Jon called me to have Chael stop talking about him.”
On whether Jones/Sonnen could ever happen:
“He was the guy who stepped up. If the fans wanted to see the fight between Chael and Jon Jones, I’d have to make it.”
On the business ramifications of cancelling an event:
White said that they had spent $2 million in advertising and for the first time since they’ve owned it, their billboard on the Las Vegas strip was blank. He said they were compensating those displaced fighters who are fighting later on and don’t have impending dates to fight.
On Silva stepping up to fight:
“What happened was when he found out things weren’t going right, he said he’d to fly to Vegas to fight somebody and defend his title. I would never call the pound-for-pound best fighter in the world and ask him to fight in eight days, and who’s really going to fight Anderson on eight days’ notice? Maybe Chael (Sonnen). He’d be in all these fights. But I’d never do that to a guy.”
On his reaction to Machida:
“When I make a fight, I don’t say a word until everything is signed. I did exactly what I never do. That big media call was the next day and Machida couldn’t be reached and his manager thought he’d take the fight. Before this happened, he was terrorizing me for a title shot and then he said four weeks wasn’t enough. But then things start going in another direction. It happened to Rashad Evans. He was out of a fight for a year and a half. Machida is not next in line now. He will need to go fight somebody else first.”
On the process of Vitor Belfort getting the opportunity:
“Vitor is fired up to have this opportunity. Number one, he’s the only Brazilian to step up and take this fight. Number two, that Anderson Silva fight drives him crazy. So he dove right in. He knows that when an opportunity comes, you take it and do what you have to do to get ready. You take it because you don’t know when it’s going to come again. He called asking for this fight.
“I think Vitor is incredibly talented and can finish a fight with anybody. The problem with Vitor is he freezes a lot. He’ll go out and stare at you instead of letting his hands go. If he goes out and does what he can do and Jon Jones does what he can do, regardless of what happened with 151, that should be a sick fight.”
On what’s next for Silva:
White said that Michael Bisping vs. Brian Stann is a very important fight. He’s “pretty much” decided what is next for Weidman but that Silva likely won’t be next. “He’s (Weidman) going to fight,” White said.
On the probability of Silva vs. St. Pierre:
“I think we’re pretty close. If Georges beats Carlos Condit, that could be the next fight. These guys want to fight each other now. They’d probably do the fight at 180. If that fight happens, it’ll probably be at Dallas’ Texas Stadium.” He brought up that Silva wanted to drop to 170 at one point and “take” GSP’s title, but that if GSP was go up to 185 pounds, it would be a permanent move per GSP.
On his recent inquisition of whether fans want to see Brock Lesnar vs. Fedor Emelianenko:
“The question on (The UG forum) was ‘Could Dana make this fight?’ Then I asked if people wanted to see this fight? I was asking the question. I’ve done so much to get Fedor in the UFC. But the guy retired. I couldn’t get him when he was fighting. Now we’re on such good terms, I’m going to get him out of retirement?”
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