Blog: 5 Key Decisions by Dana White

May 11, 2009

Nogueira -- the Other Nogueira -- Picks Up Win at Jungle Fight
By Jake Rossen (
Monday, 7:45 p.m. ET: Despite being a bullet chamber for many of MMA’s best human weapons -- Anderson Silva, Thiago Alves, a bunch of fighters nicknamed “Cyborg” -- Brazil has been rather lax when it comes to hosting their own events. The last significant attempt to build a franchise was Rio Heroes, a throwback to the bare-knuckle era that was so morbid it made Wanderlei Silva cry. (Seriously.)

With Heroes having disbanded in 2008, a more sanitized production has picked up the baton in the form of Jungle Fight, which held a card Saturday capped by the fifth consecutive victory for Antonio Rogerio Nogueira. “Little Nog,” as he’s affectionately called by people who don’t actually know him, submitted Dion Staring with a triangle choke.

The brainchild of jiu-jitsu stylist Wallid Ismail, Jungle Fight got notices early on for enlisting legendary trainer Rico Chiaparelli for his lone MMA bout. There was also a media dust-up in 2003 when Olympic gold medalist Mark Schultz claimed he was brought in to participate in a professional wrestling match against Leopoldo Montenegro; Leopoldo, Schultz said, turned it into a real fight and forced him to tap out.

Franklin Likes His Carbs, Plans to Remain at 205 lbs.
By Jake Rossen (
Monday, 7:30 p.m. ET: Expect his 195 lb. catch weight fight with Wanderlei Silva to be an anomaly: Rich Franklin tells MMA Junkie thathe’ll make the permanent move to light-heavyweight following their June 13 clash.

Coming from a man who once admitted he drove around for miles looking for a fresh box of Krispy Kreme donuts to inhale on a cheat-meal day, this should come as somewhat less than shocking.

Silva/Franklin is a bit of a get-out-of-jail-free card for both men: a loss either way can be credited to the irregular weight division. But if you need to feel dire straits to enjoy a fight, consider that a loss for Silva here would be his fifth in six fights. And if Franklin finishes him, his fourth KO in the same window -- a far more precipitous drop than Chuck Liddell’s recent troubles.

Takanori Gomi: Hi, Dana!
By Tony Loiseleur (
Dave Mandel/

Gomi feels reborn.
Monday, 5:00 p.m. ET: In shape and focused for the first time in a while, the Takanori Gomi of old returned to us on Sunday evening's Shooto Tradition Final card, where he knocked out Shooto 154-pound world champion Takashi Nakakura late in the second round.

After the event, was able to catch up with an ecstatic and jovial “Fireball Kid” to talk about his immediate feelings on the bout, as well as his next step in the sport.

Sherdog: It's been about 20-30 minutes since your knockout victory over Takashi Nakakura. How're you feeling now?

Gomi: Shooto is where I grew up. It feels like home, like my hometown. I feel nostalgic. It feels really good.

Sherdog: In the days leading up to Shooto Tradition Final, you were commenting that this fight with Nakakura was a “do or die” for you -- that you absolutely needed to win. Now that you've returned to Shooto and have won like this, do you feel reborn?

Gomi: Yeah. I've been a pro for about 10 years. MMA is starting to lose its popularity a little bit here, and a lot of people in Japan don't really know what's going on in places like the UFC and all that. So, I felt I needed to step up and do my best to show them what MMA is all about.

Sherdog: Your right foot seems to be all taped up. Did you injure it during training?

Gomi: No. They're actually both taped up, just for support. No injuries.

Sherdog: Speaking of training, is there any one thing that you can credit in your preparation for your success tonight?

Gomi: Mm, it's the return, my mental mindset in coming back. Day by day, my chances become fewer and fewer, and the window to challenge myself overseas gets smaller and smaller. The opportunities are less and less now.

Sherdog: Do you feel like you're racing against the clock?

Gomi: Yeah, certainly. [Laughs] My time is running out, while my students are getting better and better, so that puts even more pressure on me!

Sherdog: Since “time is running out,” where do you want to go next? Do you want to stick around in Shooto a little longer, or will you be heading back to fighting in big promotions? What do you, personally, want to do?

Gomi: I'd like to relax for a little bit, and if I continue fighting, I'd like to test the waters overseas.

Sherdog: Is there any goal in particular now that you think you must achieve?

Gomi: I'd like to get married. [Laughs]

Sherdog: That is indeed a great goal, but what about your career? Is there anything you're set on doing, or do you just want to take things one fight at a time?

Gomi: Yeah, one fight at time. I want to help out my teammates and just take things one fight at a time.

Sherdog: Are there any comments you'd like to convey to all your international fans?

Gomi: “I'm coming soon! The Fireball Kid will be there!” [Laughs] I'd like to thank all of you, and continue to thank you for supporting me and MMA. You guys are important, and I'll continue to do my best. Oh, and tell Dana White I said, “hi!”

Tompkins Scolds Silva
By Jake Rossen (
Monday, 2:26 p.m. ET: Xtreme Couture marquee trainer Shawn Tompkins may not be in Wanderlei Silva’s corner against Rich Franklin at UFC 99. Tompkins disclosed that Silva’s erratic training schedule wasn’t to his liking and that he instructed Silva to find a different trainer.

Since I’m sure stereotyping entire nationalities can only end well, it’s worth pointing out that Brazilians are somewhat notorious for paying little heed to the clock. In a recent profile commissioned for Real Fighter magazine, Thiago Alves was observed as having “improved” on his tardiness.

Trainer Marcos da Matta: “He’s getting better. [For an 11 a.m. class], instead of coming here at noon, he comes at 11:15.”

Way to apply yourself, Thiago. Silva is his own man, and he knows himself best, but his fans had better hope his fluctuating instruction -- he’s now training with former Chute Boxe tutor Rafael Cordeiro -- doesn’t mar his concentration. At this stage in their respective careers, Franklin is the far fresher fighter, and it’ll take a considerably focused “Axe Murderer” to navigate through his defenses. Angry Caveman Swingingâ„¢ probably isn’t going to cut it.

Sour Krauts: Germany Takes Issue with the UFC
By Jake Rossen (
Monday, 2:20 p.m. ET: According to this jumble of text from a German newspaper unearthed by Yahoo Sports, not everyone is happy UFC 99’s cast and crew will be boarding a plane for Germany the week of June 13.

Delightfully-named Manfred Wolf, Cologne City Council member, proclaimed during a recent meeting that MMA “legitimizes death” (wha-?) and promotes the wrong image for his country.

Who knew Germany even had an image to worry about? The incendiary comments were met with the expected distain from German promoter Marek Lieberberg. Or, as the article put it, “The assertions are libelous and insulting, thinks axle-maker.” Furthermore, “doctors are on site. And who lies on the ground, can surrender any time.”

Presidential Pardon: 5 Key Decisions by Dana White
By Jake Rossen (
Photo by

Five of Dana's best.
Monday, 5:30 a.m. ET: In collusion with ESPN’s Week of White -- a multi-platform examination of UFC honcho Dana White capped by Tuesday’s edition of the newsmagazine series “E:60” (ESPN, 7:00 PM ET) and a feature profile in the May 18 edition of ESPN the Magazine -- we’ll be taking stock of the many ways the polarizing president has influenced the sport of mixed martial arts.

Five days may not be enough. First up: five of White’s best boardroom knockouts.

Retaining Royce (2006)

Nostalgia pays off: Fans indoctrinated via “The Ultimate Fighter” series in 2005 may have known him only as the guy in the pajamas, but fans on board from day one still had residual affection for Royce Gracie, the skinny foreigner who made slaying giants look effortless. Better, they had residual curiosity over how the once-dominant champion would fare ten years after his departure.

Somehow, White convinced Gracie to answer the question, signing him to return for one last bout against Matt Hughes. The result was predictable, but the torch-passing was worth a $3 million gate and 600,000-plus pay per view buys.

Considering Gracie’s infamous evasiveness when it came to fighting under unified rules and without his Gi, White should have that contract framed and mounted as a symbol of his tenacity. I’m still not sure it even happened.

“TUF,” Uncensored (2005)

At the time of its debut in 2005, “The Ultimate Fighter” was considered a lurid knockoff of NBC’s glossy “Contender,” which sported no less a personality than Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) himself and the promotional push of a major network.

As it turns out, it was White -- and producer Craig Piligian -- who had the combat/reality formula all figured out. “The Contender” pureed its boxing bouts with slick editing and absurd sound effects: in trying to manufacture drama, producers sucked it right out.

“TUF” went in the opposite direction. Realizing that fight fans want unfiltered action, White and company presented bouts in their entirety. “The Contender” was bounced from the network after one season; “Fighter” has become Spike’s flagship series.

Branding the WEC (2006)

Problem: begin weaning a growing combat sports audience on the hummingbird-paced lower weight classes without diluting your own product in the process.

Solution: gather the assets of well-structured West Coast promotion World Extreme Cagefighting and use a cable network (Versus) to kill any potential competitor’s deals for airtime while simultaneously propagating that 145 pound and under athletes are just as worthy of the spotlight as the gorillas. White at his most cheerfully Machiavellian.

Securing Brock Lesnar (2007)

Despite the contempt some combat fans feel about professional wrestling, it’s clear mixed-style prizefighting shares a lot of visual attributes (submissions, heel/face personas) as its theatrical cousin. Given sufficient incentive, that fanbase could be tapped.

Wisely, White didn’t indulge in any sideshow barkering with an ill-equipped grappler: he waited until a real fighter came along in the form of Lesnar, a former WWE star attraction who also happened to be a legitimate athlete. Some scoffed -- especially after Lesnar looked technically impotent in his debut -- but his three appearances in ’08 were business blockbusters, the first bout allegedly drawing close to half its revenue from viewers who had never purchased a UFC previously.

Lesnar is now the heavyweight champion; White has a legion of new consumers throwing money at his product. And he did it without resorting to any cheap stunt work.

Global Expansion (2007-Present)

Promotions are often preoccupied with gate receipts on an event-by-event basis, ignoring what today’s decisions mean for tomorrow’s account balance. White is nothing if not a long-term thinker: treks to England, Ireland, and now Germany (June 13) may cost the company on their 2009 ledgers, but establishing their brand in foreign markets offers them an invaluable place of security five, ten, or 20 years down the line.

For countries with no existing MMA landscape, the trips also mean that the UFC will become the sport, not simply a variation on it.

Shrewd -- and more than a little scary.

Atencio Ditches Subtlety, Challenges White to MMA Bout
By Jake Rossen (
Monday, 5:15 a.m. ET: Following public jabs in recent weeks at Dana White for “talking like a fighter” but not following through, Affliction Vice-President Tom Atencio told MMAJunkie Radio that he’d relish a chance to face White in a cage.

"I’m not saying I could beat the guy, but let's fight," Atencio told the interviewer. "Let's do it. I mean, I think it would be huge for both of us.”

I could assemble a list of a dozen better things White could be doing -- pursuing sanctioning in New York, grabbing some more Japanese talent, shaving his head -- than indulging this sophomoric banter, so here’s hoping he doesn’t. (Then again, White left the door open for nonsense with his inexplicable plan to box Tito Ortiz in 2007.)

Atencio is likely just casting lines out to get some electronic ink. I suppose it’s working, but I’d sooner see him obtain that coverage with business acumen, not grandstanding.

Check the blog all day for more entries.

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