Dana White has finally responded to UFC flyweight champion Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson’s statement regarding his recent treatment by the UFC. Not surprisingly, the UFC President had a very different take on the dispute, in which Johnson has said the UFC has bullied him, reneged on a fight agreement and tried to pressure him into a fight with former bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw. White spoke to TMZ in an interview posted to their website earlier today and addressed the matter.
From White’s perspective, not everything is at it seems. “My guy Mick who is one of our guys who has been handling that, he said most of what [Demetrious Johnson] said is not true” he told TMZ. That would be match maker Mick Maynard, who was stuck in the middle of a back-and-forth between the promotion and its champion. Notably, Johnson’s tone towards Maynard was much softer than his ire for the UFC and Dana White. Make of that what you will. White also never specified exactly what Maynard suggested was “not true” but instead went on to talk about Pay-per-View, and Johnson’s place in the pound-for-pound debate.
“When he did his deal, he didn’t want pay-per-view, he didn’t want pay-per-view, he wanted upfront money, no pay-per-view” White claimed. “He wasn’t very confident in his abilities to sell pay-per-views.” White also pointed out that Johnson “has the lowest selling pay-per-view in the history of the UFC, in the modern era, number one. Number two, I think that a fight between him and T.J. Dillashaw would be something that people would actually be interested in, and could sell pay-per-views and could make money. But he absolutely refuses to fight the guy. It’s ridiculous.”
The Pay-per-View in question would be UFC 174: Johnson vs. Bagautinov, which did about 115,000 buys per MMA Payout. That would make it the lowest selling Pay-per-View since UFC 53 in 2005. That said, there’s a question of marketing (not to mention who’s on the undercard), something Johnson was critical of in his earlier statement. White’s response?
“We’re not marketing him right? We built a TV show around him. The Ultimate Fighter was about what an incredible fighter he is” he responded when TMZ brought up Johnson’s comments. “We’ve put him on Fox many times and tried to build him, and it is what it is. It’s not me. I’m bullying you? How do you bully the pound-for-pound best fighter in the world?”
Of course, there are a few flaws in that argument, not the least of which being that The Ultimate Fighter has suffered from viewer fatigue for years. TUF 24 did use Mighty Mouse, but is inserting a fighter on a flagging show to hopefully boost ratings properly marketing him? As for the bullying comment, it’s all in how you define the term.
White then launched into perhaps his most controversial statement regarding Demetrious Johnson:
“The media claims he’s the pound-for-pound best fighter in the world. I think Conor McGregor is the pound-for-pound best fighter in the world. If you look at what the really means, what pound-for-pound means. Conor doesn’t give a s***. He’ll fight anybody, anywhere, any time. If Demetrious is the pound-for-pound best guy in the world, then fight T.J. Dillashaw, fight somebody that people will actually care about and be interested in.”
The directly contradicts earlier statements White has made publicly where he lauds Johnson as the best fighter in the game currently. Following UFC on Fox 24 in April, where Johnson submitted Wilson Reis, White told the assembled press (via MMA Fighting) that Mighty Mouse was “already the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world and he strives to be better each time.”
The bigger issue here is that, as has happened historically, White is quick to downplay the accomplishments of fighters with whom he’s in a dispute with, even when they remain with the company. It’s something that has happened with both Georges St. Pierre and Anderson Silva, two other all-time greats of the sport, so it should come as no surprise.
The most interesting tidbit came later, with White addressing Johnson’s claim that he threatened to shut down the flyweight division.
“That’s not true. We’ve been talking about shutting down the flyweight division for three years. I think that’s what he’s been saying, because he knows that. He knows that we’ve talked about doing away with that division. It has nothing to do with Demetrious.”
Doesn’t it though? If the UFC doesn’t see the flyweight division as capable of drawing enough attention, how is that not a comment on its champion?
“Never once did I threaten him to shut down the division. Did he say that? That’s not true, that’s not what happened” White finished. “I told him that we’d been talking about shutting down the division for years. He knows that.”
It will be interesting to see how Mighty Mouse responds.