There will be a day when UFC runs a show in Madison Square Garden, but Dana White on Thursday afternoon admitted the plans for a 20th anniversary event in November at the world's most famous arena aren't looking good.
"I'm not as positive about it as I was a few weeks ago," White said in a media scrum while promoting Saturday's FOX fight in San Jose, Calif., which is headlined by Ben Henderson (18-2) defending the UFC lightweight title against Gilbert Melendez (21-2) in a battle the fighters who are generally considered the top two in the division in the world. "Everybody wants it in New York except the Culinary Union," he said.
White remained frustrated that his leading political adversaries have managed to continually stall legislation, even in this session. He noted that Madison Square Garden (MSG) had been holding the November date, but isn't sure if they still are. While the current legislative session remains open until June, he felt a setback was that UFC revenue was not listed as part of the budget. And he pointed out the ironies of a union based in Nevada, where UFC runs regularly, is the key political force that has kept them out of New York for years.
"If the UFC is such a bad thing, why isn't the Culinary Union writing to the MGM Grand, the Mandalay Bay, the Nevada State Athletic Commission?," he asked, pointing out that Nevada, their home state, is able to reap the economic benefits of having UFC events, but New York isn't.
Either way, White did say that the company was planning a major show for its 20th anniversary. The date would likely be in mid-November, since the first UFC event was held on Nov. 12, 1993, in Denver. He seemed negative when asked about a ceremony honoring popular fighters from the past, like the company did on its tenth anniversary.
"We don't do ceremonies," he said.
He didn't give any hints as to the location of such a show if legislation doesn't pass quickly in New York, which would be somewhat dependent on what type of a card they can put together.
Big Things in Boston
He's also planning a major television show for April 17 at the T.D. Garden in Boston, the primetime main show on the inaugural day of Fox Sports 1, which is currently The Speed Channel. He said they would have to wait for some upcoming fights to play out before figuring out what the top matches on that show would be.
White also noted that he wasn't exactly sure what was up with Dan Hardy, the former welterweight contender who was originally scheduled for Saturday's FOX card held at the HP Pavilion, where he was to face Matt Brown.
Hardy was nixed from the show by the UFC after an EKG required by the California State Athletic Commission showed an irregularity. Their doctors, after viewing an EKG, diagnosed Hardy with Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, a heart ailment.
"Lorenzo (Fertitta) and I set him up with one of the best cardiologists in the world," said White. "He didn't want to go."
White noted he was afraid Hardy may be in denial, but Hardy had told him that he's planning a wedding and doesn't want to deal with the heart issue until after it's over.
Brown (18-11) now faces Jordan Mein (27-8), a rare second generation MMA fighter, in the FOX opener.
Dana on the Mend
White also went into his current struggled with Meniere's Disease, an inner ear ailment he's been battling. The UFC president said he's feeling better than he has in two years after undergoing a treatment in Germany called blood spinning.
After surgery a few months ago seemed to only worsen the problem, to where White said he would have attacks daily, leaving him useless for 15 minutes at a time, he hasn't had any problems since getting a new treatment a few weeks ago.
White wouldn't say the name of the place where he got the treatment, noting it was secretive, past saying it was in Dusseldorf. He said it was a place where a lot of major celebrities and athletes, including Alex Rodriguez, Kobe Bryant and George Clooney have gone. Rodriguez was the one who recommended the treatment to him and vouched to get him in. The treatment involved removing blood, having the blood treated and then put back in.
He said he was told at the clinic that people who have had 11 attacks or more a month have, after treatment, cut it down to one attack a month or less. White stated he's on his third week without any attacks since.
He's also dropped more than 20 pounds on a diet he's been told to adhere to having to do with the treatment. While he admits to feeling better, regarding the diet, he said, "It's not fun."
Cruz Set to Return
Among other topics White addressed Thursday, White also said he's been in contact with bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz, who has been cleared to start training soon. "He'll fight this year," White said, but also couldn't pinpoint any estimate of a date this early.
He also said there would be a contingent of USA Wrestling officials at the April 27 show in Newark. N.J., at the Prudential Center that he would be talking with regarding the movement to save Olympic wrestling.
Two items regarding fighters on Saturday's card changing weight classes came up.
A surprise was Nate Diaz, who had mixed results as a welterweight, going 2-2, talking about moving back up.
One reason he's considering it is his expectation that teammate Melendez would beat Henderson for the lightweight title in Saturday's main event.
"If Gilbert wins, I'm gone," said Diaz, who laughed off the suggestion that he may want to try featherweight, given he had struggled as a welterweight before.
Diaz (16-8) also said that unless he was put into a lightweight title match, he wants out of the division. He noted that after fight Saturday against Josh "The Punk" Thomson (19-5, 1 no contest), he would have fought almost every major top lightweight contender, except Anthony Pettis, who has moved to featherweight. Diaz felt the couldn't get motivated to fight people he's already faced.
White knew nothing about it, when it was brought up to him, just saying that fighters can decide what weight division they want to fight in.
Another fighter who has talked in the past about changing weight classes, heavyweight Daniel Cormier (11-0), who faces two-time UFC champion Frank Mir (16-6) on Saturday. Cormier, added to the speculation when he looked smaller, and in better condition on Thursday. He noted he was 235 pounds, after having mostly fought during his career between 237 and 250.
"I got as low as 228, 229 in camp," he said, coming off a fight where he was down to around 230. "Mir's a big guy, so I wanted to be 235."
There has been talk that Cormier would drop to light heavyweight to face Jon Jones provided Jones retained his title. Cormier, who wrestled in college at 184 and in the Olympics at 211.5, had been leery of hard weight cutting since his kidneys shut down when trying to make 211.5 at the 2008 Olympics. But he had also started cutting at 248 to make 211.5 at the time, noting he had gotten too heavy which he blamed on a lack of discipline.
Adding to considering for a move down is that Cormier's training partner, Cain Velasquez, is the heavyweight champion.
Cormier and Mir had words when squaring off for photos on Thursday. Mir wouldn't comment on what he said. White said that he could hear Cormier say, "You're in a lot of trouble."
Mir, who said he expects to come in at between 250 and 260 pounds, said his move to Greg Jackson's camp in Albuquerque for nine weeks of training, has resulted in him being in the best condition of his career. When it was noted to him that Cormier felt when matches get tough, that Mir wilts under pressure, Mir said that based on his own history, he could see where one could come to that conclusion.
But he expects a different version of himself on Saturday, noting that when he's had a bad day in camp, he's had to fight his heart out to get out of advertise situations, something that didn't happen when he was training at home in Las Vegas.