UFC president Dana White isn’t the type to hold back negative opinions, even those relating to fighters and champions on his roster. But you might want to watch what you say about them if you happen to be a flappy head on one of those sportsdesk shows.
Saturday’s UFC 232 event saw Amanda Nunes become the only female double champion in UFC history by knocking out Cris Cyborg in just 51 seconds. That prompted former ESPN analyst Darren Rovell to make this throwaway tweet:
Between Rousey and Cyborg, Amanda Nunes has singlehandedly killed the most valuable women in the sport.
Brutally damaging to UFC.
Nunes isn’t in the same marketing ballpark as either of those two.
— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) December 30, 2018
”Between Rousey and Cyborg, Amanda Nunes has single handedly killed the most valuable women in the sport,” Rovell wrote. “Brutally damaging to UFC. Nunes isn’t in the same marketing ballpark as either of those two.”
Well, let us tell you: Dana White did not like that.
”I guess saying stupid things sometimes makes you stand out,” he said angrily at the UFC 232 post-event press conference. “What’s his name tonight, that idiot I can’t stand? Darren Rovell tweets out – what the f**k does Darren Rovell know about fighting, number one. Let’s start with that. And he says the UFC got destroyed tonight because Cris Cyborg lost and Amanda Nunes won and she’s not marketable at all.”
”F**king pshhhhh,” he said, miming a gun to his head. “Listen, I’m pretty resilient to this dumb s**t but holy God.”
Now heaven forbid we defend controversial sportsdesk guys for saying controversial sportsdesk stuff to get attention, negative or positive. But aside from some embellishment, there’s not much factually wrong with what Rovell said. Ronda Rousey’s last two PPV events did 1.1 million buys each. Cris Cyborg? 260,000 and 380,000 buys. Amanda Nunes? 85,000 and 100,000 buys.
You don’t have to be a professional sports business analyst or MMA expert to understand where that puts Nunes in the hierarchy.
Adding to the WTF nature of this callout is White’s own part in which marketing ballpark Amanda Nunes currently resides. “The Lioness” was barely included in promotional advertisements leading up to her fight with Ronda Rousey. Little work was done to capitalize on the win after. And when she pulled out of UFC 213 with a bad case of sinusitis, Dana White led a massive attack on her character as if she had just decided on a whim not to fight. Since then, the UFC has promoted (or rather not promoted) her like bad PPV numbers are a forgone conclusion.
And hey, maybe they are – or were before the win over Cyborg. Plenty of awesome fighters like Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson never catch on, and there’s a legit debate to be had on whether the UFC needs a star to work with or needs to work to make a star. Let’s hope this signals a positive turn where White channels his spite into proving Darren Rovell wrong, bringing the first woman’s champ champ up to the marketing major leagues.