UFC chief White making the rounds

Dana White, President of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), speaking to reporters following a news conference in Montreal. By embracing social media _ and offering huge monetary incentives to his fighters to do the same _ White is engaging fans and quickly broadening the appeal of mixed martial arts.
Dana White, President of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), speaking to reporters following a news conference in Montreal. By embracing social media _ and offering huge monetary incentives to his fighters to do the same _ White is engaging fans and quickly broadening the appeal of mixed martial arts.

The UFC has events on FX, Fuel TV, Fox or pay-per-view nearly every Saturday for the remainder of the year, which means White is flying all over the world to promote UFC events. When he’s not doing that, he’s interacting with UFC fans all day on Twitter.

White stopped off in L.A. on Wednesday to shoot a show for FoxSports.com at The Palms in West Hollywood. White also met with a small group of local MMA writers.

White talked about his recent trip to Brazil to promote the rematch between UFC middleweight champion and pound-for-pound kingpin Anderson Silva and Chael Sonnen. Sonnen received a hostile reaction from the Brazilians. Sonnen has slammed Silva, Brazilian fighters and Brazilians themselves in recent years.

“We had proper security with us,” White said. “We had like seven guys with us. These are guys that mapped out the whole route. We literally landed at the airport in Rio, a shuttle took us through customs, jumped on helicopters and the helicopters took us right to the hotel. I came through the front door. We put him (Sonnen) through a side door. We had him in a holding room. We went down to the press conference and he had a scrum. The reporters were getting really aggressive with him at the scrum. Somebody got him with shock pin and all kinds of stuff like that. He went out the side door. I went out the front door. Helicopters took us back. We got on a plane and got him out of there. I wanted to make sure we got in and out and got him safe.

“I’m still getting texts, ‘Did you and Sonnen get out of Brazil alive last night? I haven’t heard from you. Give me an update.’ I made him (Sonnen) ride in a different car than me.”

Silva and Sonnen were originally scheduled to fight at UFC 147 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The UFC decided to move UFC out of Rio because of a conflict in scheduling with the United Nations, which has convention in Rio June 20-22, the same week as UFC 147.

White wasn’t ready to announce a date and site for UFC 147, which will feature “The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil” coaches Wanderlei Silva against Vitor Belfort. Silva and Sonnen will now headline UFC 148 on July 7 in Las Vegas. Brazil remains one of the UFC’s top markets. White said “The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil” gets 12 million viewers per episode.

Now that the UFC has signed a seven-year deal with Fox networks “The Ultimate Fighter” has been moved from Spike TV to FX and has a new format where it shows taped action from the week and then airs the fights live. The show is pulling in 1 million viewers per epsiode.

“I love the format, the format’s awesome,” White said. “As far as the shoe goes, it’s a home run for FX. It’s on Friday nights. Friday nights they do movies and reruns. We’re the No. 1 thing in males 18-34 every Friday night. If not we’re No. 2 if they pull something off that beats us. For me, I want to pull 3 million viewers on FX.”

So when is the UFC coming back to Southern California?

“We’re working on an Orange County fight right now,” White said. “We’ll be back at the Honda Center by the end of the year. We’re looking at the fall ... Aug. 4 for a Fox fight (at Staples Center).”

White found out during lunch that the California state government voted in favor of a bill in committee that would add taxes and many other things that would make it harder to put on MMA events in California.

“Do you know what’s going on in Sacramento, right now?” White said. “They are trying to pass this bill to raise our taxes and do a bunch of crazy (expletive) to us. They voted 4-2 for the bill. There were a couple of people not present to vote on it. If that thing passes we won’t do anymore fights in California. You know who’s doing it? The Culinary Union from Las Vegas. These guys have been (expletive) with us in New York, too. That’s why we’re not in New York. These guys got a bunch of lobbyists together to try to pass this bill against MMA. They are putting pressure on my partners, the Fertitta brothers, because they own the fourth-largest gaming company in the country and they are non-union.”

White said Ronda Rousey, Matt Hughes, Chuck Liddell and Cung Lee are in Sacramento trying to advocate for MMA.

“I think she (Rousey) is a big star,” said White, who added that Zuffa and Strikeforce have a two-year deal to remain on Showtime.

So is it time for UFC light-heavyweight champion Jon Jones, who has defended his title in dominating fashion against three former champions, to move up to heavyweight?

“I just think he is so young,” White said.

There’s was talk that Jones might be ready to defend his title against former Pride and Strikeforce champion Dan Henderson at UFC 149 on July 21 in Calgary, but White said Jones won’t be ready to fight so soon.

White said he loves the Diaz brothers, Nick and Nate, who faces Jim Miller in the main event of UFC on Fox 3 on May 5 in East Rutherford, N.J. Nick is awaiting a hearing with the Nevada State Athletic Commission after testing positive for traces of marijuana in his system.

“Listen, my take on that thing is smoking weed is illegal,” White said. “There is no, ‘I have this and that.’ In the state of California there is some loophole where you can smoke it. In the state of Nevada there is not. Just like this Alistair Overeem thing.”

Former Strikeforce heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem was denied a license to fight in Nevada after a lengthy hearing in front of the Nevada State Athletic Commission on Tuesday. Overeem was supposed to fight UFC champion Junior dos Santos at UFC 146 in May, but his random drug test on March 27 revealed he had a 14-to-1 testosterone-to-epitestosterone ratio, which is more than twice the 6-to-1 ratio allowed by the NSAC. Overeem will be allowed to reapply for a license on Dec. 27.

“Apparently, he got suspended for nine months,” White said. “He said he was taking anti-inflammatory shots. Then you should have told the commission that before you went in and got drug tested. You don’t say it after you get busted for having elevated testosterone levels, period. It’s pretty simple. The rules are cut and clear. ... I’m not an Overeem fan at all.”

White said he would love to get Bellator middleweight champion Hector Lombard and former Bellator lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez in the UFC.

“I don’t know if he (Lombard) is officially,” White said. “I heard, but I’ve been out of the loop. I’ve been on a plane, but I heard there was a right to match (any offer for Bellator) and they did not match and we have Hector Lombard now. We like Eddie too. Those guys should be in the UFC. That’s not to say it’s us against Bellator.”