Dana White Blasts ESPN, Says They Always Hated UFC

Dana White is trying to build an empire. To this point, he has done a pretty fantastic job.  White insists the UFC will eventually go mainstream, and the new deal he signed with Fox is a great starting point for making good on that guarantee.  Not surprisingly, the UFC negotiated with a number of major networks before coming to an agreement with Fox.  One of those networks was, of course, ESPN.

If you asked White you would swear ESPN had no intention of ever hooking up with the leader in mixed martial arts.  In fact, White can’t stand ESPN and insists they never liked the UFC to begin with.

“@nickmontiel4ufc ESPN always hated us and they hate us more now that we are on FOX,” White wrote on Twitter. “They cancelled my int next week for UFC Rio (expletive) ESPN.”

On the contrary, MMA Payout Writer Jose Mendoza says that the UFC and ESPN came extremely close to a deal before Dana White settled on Fox.

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UFC To Pay Fighters to Use Twitter

Generally speaking, Twitter is nothing but trouble in the world of professional sports.  While there are plenty of players who have used Twitter as a tool to interact with fans and make themselves more accessible, there a ton of others who have abused the social networking tool and used it to lighten their wallets.  We have seen players fined for tweeting during halftime and others ruin the public’s perception of them by tweeting about extremely sensitive subjects.  Athletes like Chad Ochocinco have used their Twitter account to create a complete sideshow.

UFC president Dana White views Twitter quite differently from big wigs like David Stern and Roger Goodell.  White, who is an active Twitter user, recently announced that he will be paying fighters for using Twitter.  According to MMAFighting.com, beginning June 1 UFC and Strikeforce fighters will be awarded bonuses based on how many followers they have and whether or not they tweet creatively.  At the end of each quarter, three bonuses of $5,000 will be given to the fighters with the most new followers, highest percentage of new followers, and most creative tweets (judged by White).

When all the bonuses are paid out, the UFC will end up shelling out $240,000 for Twitter incentives.  With the way the beast has grown, I’m fairly confident that’s a number they can handle.  If you think paying athletes to use Twitter is asking for trouble, remember that you’re questioning the idea of a man who took the UFC from nothing into a fighting league that has arguably surpassed boxing in popularity.  If Dana White says it’s a good idea, it’s probably a good idea.

UFC and Strikeforce Will Merge Eventually Following Purchase: the Good and Bad

There was a monstrous announcement made Saturday that will change the MMA landscape. Dana White told MMA Fighting’s Ariel Helwani that UFC’s parent company, Zuffa LLC., has come to an agreement to purchase Strikeforce. This is easily the biggest news since the UFC bought Pride back in 2007 and it can mean many things, both good and bad, for MMA.

Let’s start with the good. The best part of Strikeforce being purchased by Zuffa is that all the fighters for both organizations are now owned by the same company. White stressed in his interview that everything will be “business as usual” and that the organizations will remain separate. He repeated that contracts will be honored, and that Strikeforce will continue to run as it has.

But that won’t last long.

As soon as fighters’ contracts are up and TV deals come to an end, Strikeforce will no doubt be absorbed by the UFC.

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UFC-WEC Merger Means Big (and Little) Things for MMA

UFC President Dana White announced today through conference call that the UFC would merge with its lighter-weight sister company, the WEC, adding their lightweight, featherweight and bantamweight divisions to the UFC, starting in January 2011.  MMA Fighting’s Ariel Helwani with the exclusive.

With that announcement came several other developments, the most exciting of which is that WEC featherweight champion Jose Aldo will be the first WEC fighter to represent the brand, as he defends his featherweight title on the UFC 125 card (Frankie Edgar-Gray Maynard 2) on New Year’s.  For those who are more casual fans of MMA, Aldo (18-1, 8-0 WEC) is one of the most exciting young fighters in the sport and is considered one of the best 3-5 pound-for-pound fighter in the World depending on the list.  His destruction of Mike Brown to win the title and Urijah Faber to defend the title are already stuff of legends.  Google that man.

Also, the winner of Ben Henderson-Anthony Pettis will face the winner of Frankie Edgar-Gray Maynard. Henderson (12-1, 5-0 WEC) is the dynamic WEC lightweight champion and his first fight with Donald Cerrone to win the interim title was largely considered the most exciting MMA fight of 2009.  Giving these guys first crack at the lightweight title is a strong endorsement of the WEC brand by the UFC.

For serious MMA fans, this move was pretty obvious and certainly well-deserved.  For newer and more casual MMA fans, we’re all in for a treat as these lighter weight guys are Fight of the Night-type fighters every night.  This will allow them to earn the money they deserve and the mainstream recognition they deserve fighting on pay-per-view cards and under the UFC banner.

UFC Going to Network TV in 2011, Potential MMA Channel in Future

Though the popularity of MMA is growing immensely, there aren’t too many places to find coverage of the UFC on TV. There’s Spike, Versus, and of course pay-per-view for most of the big cards. Strikeforce has been on CBS and their cards are found on Showtime, HDNet airs Dream fights, and Bellator cards are seen on Fox Sports channels. But good news for the growth of the UFC in particular, Dana White says the organization is looking into network TV deals for 2011 with a UFC or MMA channel a possibility for the future.

He wasn’t able to get into many specifics during an interview with Broadcasting & Cable, but he said they’re in the process of working on several deals. FOX and NBC were mentioned as possibilities. As for a potential MMA or UFC channel? It appears as if one is forthcoming according to White, who said “Sports Business Journal just came out with a survey asking big names in the industry which sport could start its own network and 4 out of 5 said us. They are right. I agree. That will happen within the next couple years.”

There have been talks of the UFC going to network TV for the past few years and nothing has emerged, but Strikeforce did break that barrier debuting on CBS. The notable information here is the possibility that they start their own network, like MLB Network, NFL Network, The Golf Channel, The Tennis Channel, and all the other sports with their own channels. It’s probably just a matter of time before we see both items happen.