The former, he said, is “doing something right.” The latter is “a freakshow.” The difference in his mind is that one is making the most of the moment, while the other is making up things that don’t exist.
It wouldn’t have been out of character for White to trash Paul, who got Daniel Cormier’s finger stuck in his face as he stood on the arena floor at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena just beyond the broadcast and officials’ area at the pay-per-view event. The UFC exec previously has attacked the Paul brothers for punching above their weight. But after Paul’s third professional boxing win, a knockout of MMA star Ben Askren, he struck a more measured tone.
“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: This kid’s done a good job of putting himself in a place to make some money, man,” White said at the post-UFC 261 press conference. “So, good for him. He’s got you guys talking about him all the time and asking questions about him. He’s got Daniel Cormier running after him, so he’s doing something right.”
Separated by bouncers, Cormier didn’t escalate things further with Paul, who previously had made headlines by calling for a two-on-two showdown. It wasn’t immediately clear why the YouTube star decided to attend UFC 261 in person. But the reaction he got as the confrontation took place was instantaneous, and it was not suitable for work.
Heels often do the biggest business in combat sports, so the question of whether White might work with Paul wasn’t an unusual one. But the UFC exec quickly shot that down.
“He knocked out an NBA guy that was 40 years old and 30 pounds less than him,” White said. “I don’t even know what to think about the Askren thing. The whole thing is f*cking mind-boggling to me, but good for him. Grab that money while you can, kid.”
White respected Paul’s six-figure purse, but he scoffed at the idea that the young fighter had raked in millions more with a reported 1.5 million buyrate for the fight with Askren, and the idea that what he did with Triller would translate to the octagon.
“Do you know what would happen to this guy – he ain’t fighting in the UFC,” White said before catching himself. “You’re getting me f*cking talking about this guy again. He’s getting handpicked opponents, and god knows what else is going on with that whole f*cking thing. There is a market for that. That’s not what I do.
“People want to see that, and it’s great, and this kid’s going to make a couple bucks before this ride is over. It’s just not what I do. What I do is what happened tonight. What happened tonight is we sold this place out and it was packed, and the numbers that you’re hearing that they did are full of sh*t. They’re full of sh*t. They didn’t pull those kind of numbers. At all. Not even f*cking close. Tonight, what happened here tonight is what I do. The best versus the best.”
In that, White had pretty much as close to a picture perfect night. The entire pay-per-view card was one “holy sh*t” moment after another, he said, as highlight-reel finishes and brutal injuries took place in the octagon. Business would likely be big when pay-per-view totals were tallied with broadcast partner ESPN+. Talking about an upstart boxing league was not high on his list.
“I don’t believe anything they say,” White said. “That’s a f*cking circus. None of that is real. Do you think any of that sh*t that’s going on over there is real? C’mon, man. I built a real business here, a real sport.”