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UFC president hopes to make mark in OntarioPosted on Tue, Mar 23, 2010 at 2:27 pm
by The IDMA Team
Source: TORONTO — From Tuesday's Globe and Mail Here
Published on Monday, Mar. 22, 2010 11:47AM EDT
With his penchant for F-bombs, UFC president Dana White is perhaps the least politically correct man to bend a politician’s ear.
But White is canny enough to know that just because Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty won’t be within earshot of his public talk today in Toronto, doesn’t mean the sales pitch for his gritty sport won’t reach his mark.
“Dana White’s not dumb. He’s very savvy,” said Ted Butryn, an associate professor San Jose State University who has studied the meteoric rise of the sport since its grim beginnings in the 1990s, when the sport was shunned by corporate America and Senator John McCain compared it to cockfighting.
Today it’s a billion-dollar industry sanctioned in almost every U.S. State. White has made it his mission to make Ontario the next province to regulate mixed martial arts fights, following Quebec and most recently British Columbia. While today’s Q&A session with fans at the Toronto Eaton’s Centre is officially to promote an upcoming fight in Newark, the media will also be in attendance – giving White ample opportunity to argue why those same fans should be able to watch fights live in their home province.
“Obviously he’s going to make himself available to deal with and discuss hopefully regulating it in the province of Ontario,” said Noble Chummar, a partner at the law firm Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP, who UFC has hired to lobby their case to the provincial government.
In an analysis of all newspaper reports that mentioned MMA between 1993 to 2006, Dr. Butryn found that White’s magnetic personality and skill as a promoter are at the heart of UFC’s explosion.
“He’ll say the same things, and he’ll counter some the same criticisms,” Ted said. “[He’ll say,] No-one’s ever died in the UFC. He’ll say something about boxing. He’ll say how they changed all the rules and it’s much safer...which is all true, quite frankly.
Often his cause is helped by journalists who don’t double check the facts woven into his message, Dr. Butryn said.
“The [UFC] knows that if they can get the popular media to say, you know what? Look at this Dana White guy... he has a great sense of humour. He has the ability to win over a crowd. And when your crowd is the media, he says all the right things. So if you’re just reading it from [the media reports] you’re like, of course this needs to be legalized.”
While White’s charisma has helped sell billions in revenue and create a tidal wave across North America, his mouth has also gotten him into trouble. In a recorded rant last April, he called a female reporter with the online MMA magazine, Sherdog.com, a “fucking bitch.”
More recently, it has been the athletes giving the UFC a black eye.
Last month, White was forced to go on the defensive after fighter Frank Mir told a Pittsburg radio station he wanted to break the neck of his opponent, Brock Lesnar, at an upcoming fight. "I want him to be the first person that dies due to Octagon-related injuries," he said.
White unloaded his reaction into the radio waves.
"Mir is a [expletive] idiot. I have never heard something so unprofessional and idiotic in my life," he told Carmichael Dave of KHTK in Sacramento. (Mir later apologized to Lesnar, his family, and the UFC).
Nevertheless, south of the border, the UFC is working on the final pieces of the UFC’s empire. Massachusetts and New York are key holdouts, along with West Virginia, Connecticut and Vermont. Alaska and Wyoming which do not have athletic commissions.
White has been to Ontario seven times in the past two years, Chummar said, including his most recent visit to earlier this month.
In February, Premier Dalton McGuinty said sanctioning MMA was not high on his priority list. “We’re continuing to monitor it,” Douglas Tindal, spokesman for Monister of Consumer Services Sophia Aggelonitis, said yesterday.
Ultimately, the decision is pretty simple, Dr. Butryn says.
“It’s still combat sport. And you either accept guys punching each other in the face, or you don’t.”