Gary Shaw is a self made American success story. This son of retail bakery business owner never graduated high school, but now runs one of the largest MMA organizations in the world. Shaw sat down exclusively with Fightline.com to discuss his story. A story that ultimately may become intimately connected to the fate of MMA in America as Shaw stewards the direction of MMA irrevocable for better or for worse.
In part one of Fightline.com’s three part interview with EliteXC president and CEO Gary Shaw, we touch briefly on Shaw’s landmark deal with CBS, his feud with UFC president Dana White and we go in depth on his thoughts regarding the UFC; including his interest in potential UFC castoffs Tito Ortiz and Andrei Arlovski.
Fightline.com: Your company recently made an historic, landmark deal with CBS marking MMA’s entry into mainstream America. Do you feel that this deal will enable you to surpass the UFC in terms of exposure, popularity and ultimately revenue?
Gary Shaw: I don’t know, we’re not focused on that. They’re a very fine competitor. So, I’m not sure about that because Pepsi hasn’t been able to pass coke and Avis hasn’t been able to pass Hertz. You know, being number 2 is not always so terrible.
Fightline.com: You and UFC president Dana White have had some words back and forth over the past year or so. Do you know Dana personally?
Gary Shaw: No.
Fightline.com: You’ve never met him?
Gary Shaw: Never met him; but if it wasn’t for the Fertitta’s and their money and their intelligence, he’d be a jazzercise instructor right now.
Fightline.com: Dana White has criticized you and the skill of some of your fighters in the past; he recently stated that he believes that his lightweight champion, B.J. Penn could defeat Kimbo Slice. What are your thoughts on those comments?
Gary Shaw: That proves what I just said. Without the Fertitta’s money and without their intelligence, he’d be a jazzercise instructor because he’s an idiot. What kind of an idiot would say something like that? First of all, I know B.J. Penn; B.J. himself would never say something like that nor would he think that. B.J. is a fan of Kimbo’s and Kimbo happens to be a fan of B.J. and Jay Dee, the smarter of the two brothers works with us. So he may not be the best fighting [Penn], but he’s the smart one cause he works with us instead of the UFC [laughs]. Yeah, so Jay Dee Penn is with us and he’s a fine addition to our company, but yeah, I think that’s idiotic. I mean, Kimbo can really punch. I just…it’s so idiotic. It shows what an idiot Dana White is. If he cared about the sport he wouldn’t say things like that. You see, the thing is, Dana is so insecure he wants to tear down every other competitor, every other fighter that’s not with the UFC, so that his brand is the only one and then he can screw all the fighters like he did for years. We offer a legitimate place for fighters to go who are not in the UFC.
Fightline.com: I’m assuming that your aware of the bad blood between Tito Ortiz and Dana White that seemed to boil over at UFC 84. What’s your take on that situation?
Gary Shaw: Dana doesn’t want anyone to become bigger than him in the UFC and that’s nuts because it’s the athlete that makes the company. Without the athlete you have no product. It’s just bad business.
Fightline.com: This seems to happen between Dana and some of his biggest stars. We saw the fallout between he and Frank and Ken Shamrock, he and Randy Couture and now he and Tito Ortiz. Why does this seem to happen between Dana and some of his high profile athletes?
Gary Shaw: Because he wants to be the star. He thinks he should be the star. He’s got a private jet, he’s got a swimming pool the size of the Atlantic Ocean, it’s wrong. It’s dead wrong it’s not what you should do. The athlete is your product. That’s what you should be selling. You know, on a personal level I have nothing against Dana. Dana comes across as an idiot because he says idiotic things. He said he invented MMA, and he did not invent it [laughs]. I have nothing bad to say about the UFC, Mark Ratner’s like a brother to me. I know Lorenzo Fertitta and I have a world of respect for Lorenzo Fertitta. He is a very, very good business man and he’s a fine individual and I have a world of respect for him. I have always said that they have a fine brand and their the leading brand. I will never say anything bad about those people, but Dana White, as long as he keeps opening his idiotic mouth then I’ll keep responding. If he thinks Kimbo is as Dana says, “nothing’, then he should stand in the cage with him. And I’m willing to do that. And he’s a lot bigger than B.J. Penn. Why doesn’t he put his money where his mouth is?
Fightline.com: You’d be willing to promote that?
Gary Shaw: Absolutely. When he went for his boxing license when he was gonna put on that sham of a fight, I offered to promote it. He’s very promotable because he’s got that big, ugly mouth.
Fightline.com: Are you speaking of the proposed boxing match between Dana White and Tito Ortiz?
Gary Shaw: Yeah.
Fightline.com: What would’ve happened had Tito Ortiz shown up for that fight?
Gary Shaw: Tito would have crushed him.
Fightline.com: Have you had any conversations with Tito about coming over to EliteXC?
Gary Shaw: I haven’t talked to Tito, but he knows he has an open audience with me. I read recently where he might want to go with Affliction and if that’s the route he chooses than I don’t think it’s the right move. You know, it doesn’t get bigger than CBS. It’s the most exposure they can get. Their sponsorship dollars go up so we’ll see. The door’s always open for Tito. If you talk to him tell him to call me, tell him I’m looking for him. I mean that.
Fightline.com: Andrei Arlovski is another fighter recently mentioned as likely to leave the UFC. Do you have any interest in signing him?
Gary Shaw: Yeah, absolutely. Arlovski is a great figher. Comes from Chicago…I’ll roll out the red carpet for these guy. Remember, Kimbo right now might be the most sought after and the most well known fighter; including all those fighers from the UFC. Let’s be honest, who’s bigger, Rampage or Kimbo? It’s not even close. I can walk on Hollywood and Vine, I can take him to Chicago, the streets of Florida, Broadway and 42nd street; people will start screaming to Kimbo out of the windows of their car. They don’t know Rampage. You know, if a fighter wants to get marketed he needs to come with Gary not Dana. He needs to come with EliteXC not the UFC. If he wants to be in someone shadow he can go to the UFC. Guaranteed you’ll never get a suntan because you’ll always be in Dana’s shadow. And I like Rampage. Rampage is a great character and Rampage should be a star, but as long as he’s in the UFC the star is Dana White. Just look at the MMA magazine, it’s got Dana’s face on the front of it. That’s not what it’s about. It’s not about the people that run the organizations. That should be the focus. Get the ESPN magazine, the number one sports magazine in the world. Who’s on the cover? Kimbo. That’s what the games about. And after May 31st, guaranteed Kimbo will be the single most recognizable face in the world. I’ll walk with him and Fedor and nobody will know Fedor, guaranteed.
Fightline.com: I gotta say, Kimbo is getting a ton of exposure recently. I just saw him presenting at the Country Music Awards of all places.
Gary Shaw: Exactly, because the UFC is run by a jazzercize instructor and EliteXC is run by a real promoter.
Be sure to check back with us soon for part 2 of our three part series with Gary Shaw where Shaw goes in depth about Kimbo Slice and his future, talks Jake Shilds vs. GSP and criticizes the UFC’s handling of Brock Lesnar.