Dana White spoke to media members following the first event of the Contender Series 2019 season.
Las Vegas, NV – Dana White’s Contender Series has a new name, a new home, and a new broadcast partner. With the fights now taking place in the UFC Apex rather than the tried and true TUF Gym, it should have been expected to not have everything firing on all cylinders during the first event of the season. UFC President Dana White explained what he’d like to see going forward to media following the event.
“There are some production things I need to fix. I told you guys there would be no problems and there weren’t really any production problems. I just feel like now that we have the capability in house to show the features and things like that, now that we have that capability, we need to do it. The show open was really cool and none of you got to see it. The features were great. They tell you a lot about the fighters, and you guys didn’t get to see it. So that will be different next week. We’ll run a lot of stuff in house.”
Yorgan De Castro was the biggest underdog of the night and stunned Alton Meeks with a first-round leg kick TKO, earning a UFC contract after just his fifth pro fight. Considering the snub of UFC veteran Brendan Loughnane, White explained his choice to sign De Castro.
“We always need heavyweights. But listen, that guy was a huge underdog tonight. And that guy he fought was ranked number eight in the United States as a Greco-Roman wrestler. He defended his takedowns, stopped him with leg kicks. And the guy he beat has never been past two minutes in a fight, the guy finishes people. He fought a real guy, he fought a tough guy, and he finished him. He deserves this shot.”
As for why Loughnane won’t be making his return to the Octagon following his strong performance, White said the following.
“It’s a gut. It’s a gut from me. That guy is a killer and when you come on to this show, unlike any other show you could fight on, I’m looking for killers. If you make it here and you make it to this show and you want to get into the UFC, show me! Don’t double-leg when you’ve got 10 seconds left in the fight. Show me you want to be here. Show me you want to win. Show me you have that killer instinct. You can fight a thousand of those fights anywhere else or even in our show, but not tonight.”
Ultimately, though, it happened to be one decision that ended Loughnane’s chances. That being a takedown attempt with 10 seconds left in the contest.
“100-percent. They literally showed it on TV tonight. When he double-legged, I threw my pen and went like, ‘You gotta be s**tting me. Did he just double-leg him with 10 seconds left in the fight?’ That ruined it for me. That kid is absolutely going to be in the UFC someday. He’s got the record, he’s got the skills, he’s got the great story. I think he’s hilarious, just not tonight.”
In the final fight of the night, Punahele Soriano impressed in a wild fight against Contender Series veteran Jamie Pickett to also earn a UFC contract at 6-0. He’s an early favorite of Dana’s after the victory.
“Tonight was Puna’s biggest stage he’s ever been on. And for anyone that knows fighting, he tried to take his head off for two straight rounds. Then even in that last round, I think that kid felt closer to death than he ever has in his life. When you’re in a dogfight like that and you’ve never been in deep water like he was tonight against a crafty veteran – every time he tried to pull his hands out, that guy’s arms were so long that he could control him. He fought against a very tough guy tonight, a very motivated guy, it was his second shot in here and he wanted to get into the UFC. I can’t guarantee Puna is going to be a champion in the UFC one day, but if he gets three or four fights in the UFC, he’s going to be a very popular fighter. His fighting style is fun. So if you look at the night as a whole, the Puna fight had me on the edge of my seat the whole time. Every time this guy landed a punch I was squirming around, going, ‘Oh s**t, this might be it.’ His opponent was perfect for him tonight. It was the perfect test in my opinion.”
Prior to the event, White announced that the card would be open to the public. The relatively small UFC Apex filled up quickly as a result.
“Yeah that blew up in my face tonight. We started getting inundated tonight with emails and calls and text messages, and the place was already full tonight. That’s something else we have to figure out. What happened was, with the old TUF gym, it was a very hard place to find. If I gave you directions the first time, it would still be hard to find. But people would stumble upon it sometimes and I’ve let people come in and watch. There’s probably 300,000 cars per day that go by here. This isn’t a tough place to find. So we’re going to have to figure that out. We could fit another 1,200 people in here than we did tonight.”