When Dana White first talked about the proposal made by World Wrestling Entertainment President Vince McMahon for a pro wrestling match, or a fight, it was an off-the-cuff remark that came out of the blue.
White was doing an interview Friday night for UFC 158 with sportscaster Denis Gauthier, Jr., a former NHL player whom, unbeknownst to White, comes from Montreal's royal wrestling family. His grandfather, Jacques Rougeau Sr., a former boxer, was known as the toughest bouncer in town in the 50s. He moved onto pro wrestling where he and his brother were the city's biggest stars in the 60s and 70s. Newer fans may remember Jacques Sr.'s two sons, who were stars in the World Wrestling Federation, as The Fabulous Rougeau Brothers in the 80s.
Gauthier's father was a pro wrestler, and his mother, Joanne, was the sister of Jacques Jr. & Raymond, and herself the local Montreal promoter for the WWF in the 90s. But Gauthier Jr., likely had no idea there was actually one time a brief discussion when he joked about a fight between the two leading promoters of their respective worlds, and was shocked when White told the story.
"Vince is too old, which he won't think he is and he'll go crazy (when he hear about this)," said White. "He wanted to do that one time. Vince wanted to fight me. Swear to God, he called me up and said, `Let's do it. We can either do it in the UFC or let's do it at WrestleMania.' And I said, `You are crazy. I always said I respect Vince and I'll say it again. I respect Vince very much, but Vince is too old to be fighting."
The suggestion by McMahon was actually made on or around Oct. 15, 2010, actually stemming from what at the time McMahon was looking for as his main event for WrestleMania 27, which took place on April 3, 2011 at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. It ended up drawing 61,617 fans. McMahon, who had used Mike Tyson, Muhammad Ali, Lawrence Taylor and Floyd Mayweather Jr., on WrestleManias in the past, was looking to match up then-UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar, with The Undertaker, as the main event.
Lesnar became a major pro wrestling star with McMahon's group after winning an NCAA wrestling title at the University of Minnesota. But he quit the company in 2004, and when he came to UFC in 2008, his pro wrestling fame and winning the UFC heavyweight title made him a gigantic pay-per-view attraction.
White nixed the idea for the obvious business logic of not wanting his champion doing pro wrestling at the same time they are trying to promote his real fights. Lesnar did return to the WWE last year after he had retired as a fighter.
But McMahon thought himself against White could also be a headline event on the show.
The idea was for a pro wrestling match, but McMahon, a bodybuilder who was 65 at the time, actually said if White felt it wasn't the right thing for him to do a staged fight, they could still do the match - for real.
"I laughed and said, 'You're crazy, you're out of your mind,' White said when the subject was brought up a second time after UFC 158 by Ariel Helwani on Fuel TV. "In the interview (the night before), I said Vince was too old. We're both too old. I'm too old, too, just for the record.
"I'm younger than him by 20 years (actually 24 years), but I'm a beat up 43, man, my ear surgery alone."
At the time, WWE was struggling on pay-per-view, hitting rock bottom, while UFC was riding high, having the biggest year of any sports enterprise in history in 2010.
As it turned out, with McMahon's idea of trying to do a UFC vs. WWE themed main event out the window, he instead reached out to another former wrestling star who left and became a bigger name, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, whose return over the past two years helped turn around McMahon's pay-per-view business.