Dana White understands the kinds of people he’s working with on a day-to-day basis.
Given that he just so happens to be the boss of the largest MMA promotion in the world, White has dealt with numerous explosive personalities and situations over his 18-year run with the UFC. The latest, an altercation between welterweight contenders Jorge Masvidal and Leon Edwards that occurred backstage after UFC London, seemed like it could result in serious disciplinary action.
But White isn’t condemning his fighters in this case. Speaking to Yahoo! Sports, White explained how he can see why Masvidal and Edwards were already worked up after their respective victories this past Saturday and who he feels was primarily responsible for the punches that were eventually thrown.
“These guys are different. They’re different,” White said. “These people that fight for a living are different than normal people. These people function on a whole different level than normal human beings do, in many different ways when it comes to having a job, and sitting in your car in bumper-to-bumper traffic every day and going to work. These people don’t live by the same rules that we live by. They’re different.
“That’s why they’re professional fighters and they were put on this earth to do that. And when you understand what’s here (points to head) with a professional fighter as an organization, it’s our job to make sure that doesn’t happen.”
Asked whether he held Masvidal responsible for what happened or if this was a UFC staff issue, White put the onus on his people.
“I do blame my staff,” White said. “There’s never a scenario where you let guys walk up to each other like that backstage. We have enough people backstage that that shouldn’t happen, including security. I’m super disappointed in my whole crew for that one.
“These guys are fighters. They’re in the heat of the moment. He just won, he’s got the adrenaline pumping, this guy comes by, plus Masvidal isn’t a guy that — he’s that guy, you know what I mean? For anybody backstage in my staff to let these guys walk up to each other is just ridiculous.”
“As soon as he started walking up the ramp with his hands behind his back, 10 people that work at the UFC should have jumped in there,” White added. “That stuff shouldn’t happen.”
The Masvidal-Edwards exchange drew extra scrutiny in the wake of a pair of high-profile 2018 incidents involving Conor McGregor, the UFC’s most popular fighter. McGregor went on a rampage last April at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, attacking a bus carrying Khabib Nurmagomedov. The two rivals would meet in the Octagon at UFC 229 in October, with Nurmagomedov defeating McGregor by submission, but that wouldn’t be the end of the feud.
Nurmagomedov proceeded to exit the cage and attack McGregor cornerman Dillon Danis, spaking a brawl that also involved McGregor and other members of Nurmagomedov’s team. Suspensions and fines were handed out to the parties involved and while the effects of that brawl are still being felt, White doesn’t think these outside-the-cage episodes are anything to be overly concerned about.
“Listen, it’s the fight business. Sometimes people overreact,” White said. “I thought that a lot of people overreacted on the Conor and Khabib thing. We had that thing contained like that (snaps fingers). We knew that there was a possibility that that could happen and we were ready for it.
“These things happen. But it’s the fight business and our job is to make sure these things don’t happen onstage, behind the scenes, but sometimes it does. Sometimes things escalate and blow up.”
The situation between Edwards and Masvidal has certainly escalated to the point where a fight between the two seems inevitable and neither man is backing down with Masvidal claiming that he was justified in punching Edwards, and Edwards offering his own threatening statement. However, both have also expressed an interest in challenging welterweight champion Kamaru Usman.
White praised Masvidal’s win at UFC London, but stopped short of saying that there was any chance of Masvidal jumping the line and getting a title shot given that Edwards has won seven straight fights and Masvidal just saw his hand raised for the first time in almost two years. They may have to wait for Colby Covington and Usman — two men who have also had their share of drama — to settle their business, despite Usman’s manager Ali Abdelaziz calling for Masvidal to fight his client next.
“Masvidal just looked great,” White said. “He just came off two losses then has a big win over Till. When Usman jumped over Colby Covington, he was on a win streak, looked incredible against RDA, whom I respect, and Ali doesn’t make fights we do. So no, Colby’s getting the next fight.”