On the eve of UFC 106: Ortiz vs. Griffin 2, UFC President Dana White has been dealing with a host of atypical issues not related to the actual event.
UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar was initially slated to headline the fight card and defend his crown against the undefeated Shane Carwin. However, Lesnar surprisingly pulled out from the bout just as the banter between he and his challenger began to brew to a palatable state.
Carwin made his disdain for Lesnar clear following the champion’s now infamous post fight victory celebration after besting Frank Mir at UFC 100. “He may be a champion but he has a long ways to go before he earns the respect of a champion . . .,” proclaimed Carwin.
Lesnar fired back, taking aim at the challenger’s record, “I would be embarrassed to fight some of those guys he beat. His only good fight was Gabriel Gonzaga. Shane’s really 1-0.”
The war of words was quickly squelched after news broke that Lesnar was too ill to train. The illness was initially diagnosed as mononucleosis, but has since been identified as a bacterial infection in Lesnar’s intestinal track.
Upon learning of the severity of Lesnar’s ailment, White flew to Bismarck, North Dakota to be at his champion’s bedside.
“The family was worried big time, they were freaking out,” the UFC president shared with Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports. “Brock was in big pain, he was hurting.”
Despite the negative press that White often generates for himself, his loyalty to his prized fighters cannot be question. As evidence of White’s degree of devotion, one only has to look back to the road rage incident with Quinton “Rampage” Jackson last summer in which White immediately flew to the aid of his troubled light heavyweight.
Since White’s arrival, Lesnar has been released from the hospital and awaits further testing at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.
“We don’t know if he’ll ever fight again. He had a hole in his intestine,” White explained. “The (intestinal fluid) was leaking into his stomach. That’s what was causing him so much pain. That and he had abscesses.”
With Lesnar sidelined, White turned to “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” Tito Ortiz as his main attraction for UFC 106. Ortiz, just returning to the Octagon following a prolonged public dispute with White, was initially slated to battle Mark Colemen. However, Coleman fell victim to an injury so White tapped fan favorite Forrest Griffin to take his place. Griffin, looking to rebound from a humiliating defeat at the hands of middleweight titleholder Anderson “The Spider” Silva, has a chance to avenge a controversial split decision loss to Ortiz in 2006.
White must come to terms with the potential vacancy of the UFC heavyweight title. He is yet to commit to establishing an interim champion until he knows more about Lesnar’s condition. White must also contend with the fact that two of his other champions are on the shelf due to injury. The Spider is recovering from elbow surgery but plans to defend his strap against Vitor Belfort in February. Similarly, welterweight champion George “Rush” St. Pierre has been slow to recover from a groin injury suffered in his successful title defense against Thiago Alves at UFC 100 in July. St. Pierre has been slated to fight Dan Hardy following his hard fought victory over Mike Swick.
Other matters concerning White include Rampage’s decision to retire from the UFC in order to play the role of “B.A. Baracus” in the upcoming remake of The A-Team. This defection might not have been so painful if Jackson weren’t a coach on this season’s The Ultimate Fighter 10, which was built on the premise of a showdown between him and “Suga” Rashad Evans. Furthermore, staph infection has hobbled heavyweight Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Dan “Hendo” Henderson is dangerously close to leaving the UFC to sign with Strikeforce.
Obviously not pleased with this state of affairs, White maintains a calm perspective on the situation. “This sounds crass but when you are dealing with humans as your product, crap happens… It’s no different in football or baseball. I always say, the only guarantee when my big toe hits the floor in the morning is that something bad is about to happen,” he explained.
Ultimately, White doesn’t have much to really worry about. “It’s about the fights… The one thing no one can ever say is that we don’t deliver good fights. People always look at a card and say it’s not going to be any good. Then it ends up being the best card of the year. Just because Brock Lesnar is not in the main event doesn’t mean there won’t be great fights,” shared the UFC president.
Clearly pleased with the UFC’s supremacy, White explained his competitive advantage, “If you’re a fight fan you want to great fights. We deliver great fights.”