Tired of answering for booking Greg Hardy on the same card as Rachael Ostovich, UFC President Dana White had plenty to say Friday ahead of UFC 231 — but had no message for domestic abuse survivors.
At a press scrum Friday ahead of UFC 231, UFC President Dana White once again faced the music for booking Greg Hardy on the same card as Rachael Ostovich. Hardy was previously convicted on domestic abuse charges only to have them dropped when the victim did not testify during his appeal. Ostovich, meanwhile, was recently the victim of an alleged domestic abuse incident for which her husband is facing second degree murder charges.
While Ostovich understandably wants to move on and focus on her fight at UFC Brooklyn against Paige VanZant, questions about the message the booking sent remained. The situation flared up during UFC 231’s fight week, when the promotion barred reporters from asking questions related to events outside UFC 231 ahead of a press conference Wednesday. The move was seen in particular as an attempt to stifle questions about the Hardy situation. That led to the Mixed Martial Arts Journalists Association (MMAJA, comprised of members of multiple media outlets including Cageside Press) protesting the move, and an eventual compromise: the promotion would make White available during a scrum following Friday’s ceremonial weigh-ins, at which an MMAJA pool reporter would be made available. No questions were off limits.
MMA Fighting’s Shaun Al-Shatti got the nod, and addressed the Hardy/Ostovich situation with White, who was less than happy to revisit the topic.
Asked if Ostovich had been approached before or after the Hardy fight had been added to the UFC Brooklyn card, White explained to reporters that “we’ve been building this EPSN card for a while, and he was one of the guys we were planning to put on that card. But no, it wasn’t booked.” He also pointed out that “and then she came off the card.”
Ostovich was temporarily removed from the card after being assaulted last month. However, despite suffering a fractured orbital bone, she was given the go-ahead to stay in the fight.
Had Ostovich balked at being featured on the same card as a man with a checkered past, would the UFC have made any accommodations? When confronted with the question, White began to show signs of irritation, to say the least. “I’m not going to talk about Greg Hardy anymore. I already covered this. I’m not playing this bullsh*t with you guys. He’s on the UFC roster. He’s on the UFC roster. Period, end of story.”
Of course, it was far from the end of the story. Pressed on the subject White repeated that “he’s on the roster. Listen, you guys want to be sensitive about sh*t. Anybody can be sensitive about anything. You can make an issue about everything. The weird thing is you guys give a f*ck, but she doesn’t. She doesn’t care. You know what she said yesterday in her statement? ‘Please stop asking me about this. I want to focus on training. I don’t want this to be an issue for me. I don’t know this guy. This guy has nothing to do with me. I have nothing to do with this guy. This guy’s never done anything to me. This isn’t an issue.’”
Addressing reporters in attendance, White continued by saying that “you, you, you, and a lot of other people… a lot of other people are making this an issue. It’s not an issue for her. She doesn’t have an issue with this. She actually doesn’t want to talk about it anymore, and she asked you yesterday, ‘please, I don’t want to talk about this anymore, I want to move on with my training and focus on that.'”
White then accused the press of essentially using the subject as clickbait. “If you guys want to keep bringing this up and making this an issue, you can. And I get it. It probably gets hits, and it probably does well for you guys. I get it. But she doesn’t want to talk about it anymore.”
“So that’s the end of the story. I’m done with it. I’m done with it. I’m done with it,” White repeated himself. Turns out, he wasn’t.
Later, the topic surfaced again, and White was asked if he had a message for domestic abuse survivors put off by Greg Hardy’s addition to the ESPN card. The perfect opportunity for damage control. Instead, White claimed that “nobody’s been put off by it.”
“Do you know how many people have contacted me? Like three. Him, him, him, one other guy, and some other guy,” White exclaimed, again pointing the finger at the press. “Who’s put off by it?” he asked. When social media reaction was brought up, White quipped “because social media is where you go to find out where real people are talking about real stuff, and what real people really care about. Is on social media.”
“Is that true? Is that what you’re saying?”
Given a second chance to send a message to domestic violence victims, White again refused to answer the question or give any statement.
“Do you guys have any other questions for me?” he finished.
If nothing else it seems like a missed opportunity for White to have done some damage control. Whether he chooses to believe it or not, Hardy’s booking has become a major story as 2018 winds down. He’s unquestionably a draw when it comes to ratings. Yet while Ostovich is apparently fine fighting alongside him, Jessica Rose-Clark previously stated she was very against Hardy’s contract. And there’s no telling how the other members of the UFC roster feel. While it’s clear he’s in the UFC, whether fighters should have a say in working alongside him (or, alternately, being booked for other events) is a valid question.