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Furious Dana White confronts SI talk show host on fixed fight discussion

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

A furious Dana White was a guest on SI Now, an Internet talk show on the Sports Illustrated web site, fuming at a panel discussion on an SI show that talked about whether the July 6 Anderson Silva vs. Chris Weidman fight was fixed.

White, appearing on Friday, was upset because he felt the reporters hadn’t done their homework and said things, most notably, that the UFC wasn’t regulated at the level boxing was when the two sports are regulated virtually identically and by the same governing bodies in most cases. In the case of Silva vs. Weidman, the fight was in Nevada, regulated by the same commission that regulates the many of the world’s biggest boxing matches.

On the show, before White was on, host Maggie Gray read a statement, noting the mistake by one of the panelist on the regulation issue, and also noting that the panel concluded at the end that the Silva vs. Weidman fight wasn’t fixed.

White, likely not aware of what was said since he may not have been on the phone yet, jumped on the regulation point immediately, saying,"Wrong, you guys are talking about a sport that you know nothing about. We’re regulated by the exact same people as boxing."

The fix talk, as silly as it is, largely evolved from people that were shocked when Silva, unbeaten in his UFC career that dates back to 2006, lost to someone who really wasn’t all that well known going in. It took off in some eyes in social media, although most reacted to that talk that it was nothing but a tinfoil hat brigade battle cry.

Still, it was a subject widely addressed, and quickly debunked, by many outlets that cover the sport. The difference is most dismissed it as outright silliness, not that fixed fights aren’t possible, as there is belief that managers may have fixed fights in the 90s in UFC, but if you look at the questionable UFC and Pride fights, they looked nothing like Silva vs. Weidman.

Given the stakes, it is ridiculous to think the UFC itself would be involved in such activity. It does happen in boxing and there have been fixed fights in MMA.

Usually it involves two-bit shady promoters looking for a quick buck. UFC is a company with a long-term vision, that could be destroyed by fight fixing, which is why even the allegation makes White furious. Worse for the UFC, above almost any organization that promotes fights is attempting such would also risk the Fertitta family’s major casino empire, which makes such a thing as close to unfathomable as it could be in the fight game.

"You guys are Sports Illustrated, No. 1, and I want to know did anyone on the panel watch the fight," asked White.

When Gray defended the subject by saying it was the same subject reporters were asking White at the press conference after the fight, White got mad again.

"No, no, no, no , no," he said. "The guy who asked me the question who was covering the fight said people on Twitter and people on the Internet were saying it. There’s a big difference between people on the Internet and Sports Illustrated. I should hope so, at least."

Later in the conversation, White said he thought they were calling him to apologize about the prior segment.

"I honestly thought you guys were calling to apologize because you were embarrassed at how ridiculous your show was," White said to Gray.

Gray defended the show, saying that they started with a discussion of the fight, and repeated her statement earlier about how the discussion evolved into a broader subject of fight fixing in general, and that they concluded the fight wasn’t fixed.

White shot back that the panelists, which didn’t include anyone familiar with MMA, were talking about a subject they didn’t know.

"If you don’t know anything about what you’re talking about, you probably shouldn’t talk about it," he said. "That sounds like a really good idea. That’s why you’ve been getting smashed by fans and why I smashed you yesterday at ESPN. Because if you’re going to talk about something, you might want to do your homework and know what you’re talking about. Or at least you might want to have at least seen the fight so somebody on that panel would have had half a brain to say, `You know what, I saw the fight, the guy was viciously knocked out. How could that be fixed?’"

"The conclusion is you should do your homework and understand exactly what you’re talking about," he said. "You should at least know the sport is regulated. I honestly thought you were calling to apologize because you guys were so embarrassed by how ridiculous your show was. Now as I sit here and talk to you, you’re even more ridiculous. I’ll bet you this whole interview doesn’t see the light of day. If your producer is smart, he’ll take this tape out and throw it right in the garbage so the world can’t hear what I’m saying to you now."

White noted a big part of his issue with the show was it a Sports Illustrated property, telling a story he has told in the past, that when Sports Illustrated did a cover story on the UFC in 2007, that White and UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta saw that as a sign that they had made it.

"The day we got the cover, I walked around for two days I was so pumped that we were on the cover of Sports Illustrated," he said.

"You did not represent what Sports Illustrated is supposed to be," said. "My point is, some of the things that were said were totally incorrect and you don’t have to be an MMA expert to do some homework."

Eventually White calmed down, when Gray tried to change the subject from their panel discussion to the Dec. 28 Weidman vs. Silva rematch.

"I don’t ever tell guys how to fight," he said in reference to Silva’s performance in a losing effort on July 6. "Anderson Silva has fought that way since the day he came into the UFC and it always worked for him. That night it did not. He got caught. Chris Weidman didn’t get intimidated. Chris Weidman didn’t back down. Chris Weidman didn’t start to doubt himself and think, `I don’t belong with Anderson Silva.’ When Anderson Silva goofed around, he caught him and knocked him out."

When asked if he felt fans were cheated because Silva didn’t fight to the best of his ability, White said, "I didn’t hear that, but if anyone felt that way, everyone has seen an Anderson Silva fight and that’s what he does. His strategy is to get in his opponents’ head, make Weidman not want to take him down, humiliate him, that’s the way Anderson Silva fights. It’s the mental warfare he plays on people.

Still, White said he doesn’t think Dec. 28 will see Silva utilize that same game plan.

"I got a pretty good idea he won’t do that again. If I was a betting man, and I am, I’d bet he wouldn’t."