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Dana White Talks UFC 107, BJ Penn, Expansion & More

UFC 107 reminded us that match-maker Joe Silva and company president Dana White still know how to put together a great championship card despite having their active roster strained by the injury. Saturday night’s fight card from the FedEx Arena in Memphis not only looked solid on paper but came away exceeding expectations which was refreshing since the last three events lacked any championship bouts.

One pleased spectator, Dana White, spoke very highly of the event and amongst other things, two fighters in particular; defending lightweight champion BJ Penn and victorious Frank Mir at the post-fight press conference.

BJ Penn celebrated his 31st birthday, Saturday night in Memphis, by decimating contender Diego Sanchez and shaking hands with Dana White at the post-fight press conference. Penn commented, “Thank you, it’s my birthday and I turned 31 today. I started fighting for this company about ten years ago at the age of 22.” White then chimed in, “And he just started training at 31.”

The verbal jab was a reference to BJ’s lack of effort in the past which was an underlining point during the press conference. Even though there has been contrasting versions of the fighter throughout his career, when a highly motivated BJ Penn enters the octagon, he is nearly invincible at 155lbs as the unfortunate Sanchez discovered the hard way. It was a sentiment vocalized between Dana White and fellow victor Frank Mir.

“He looked great. I’ve been waiting for this for years. He’s put the time and effort into this, he’s proven again that he is the real deal. He’s been coasting on talent for ten years, now he’s serious,” commented Dana White. The undeniable truth poses questions of future contender legitimacies for the prodigy Penn. Who is next in line to give BJ some serious competition? Frank Mir didn’t have an answer when he first responded.

“It’s hard to pick out weaknesses in BJ’s game. He’s such a good athlete which is a phenomenal foundation to start off with. Not to mention he’s a good technician when it comes to submissions and he’s a great boxer. At this point at 155lbs, it’s hard to see who has a definite shot at taking him out.” Later during the press conference Mir revisited the question and added he thought Frankie Edgar would be interesting match-up for the Hilo native. Dana White revealed plans to take the UFC Hawaii next year which would surely see a fight card that would include BJ Penn.

White, a Boston native, also confirmed his plans to bring the fight promotion the east coast city sometime next summer. “Yeah it’s a personal one for me. I’ve been waiting a long time; it’s the state [Massachusetts] I’m most excited about. There are a lot of injured fighters now that will be ready when that show happens. I’m gonna blow it out in Boston,” a grinning White said after being asked if the Boston card was going to be loaded. Boston Garden will be the first venue in Massachusetts followed by Fenway Park.

With the UFC empire expanding into uncharted markets across the globe next year and potentially producing two events a month, Dana was asked if he has thoughts about stepping back and slowing down in the face of mounting fighter injuries. He confidently responded by saying, “No, keep on moving forward. We’re in the fight business and like any business there’s problems you have to deal with but we have enough good fighters to keep putting on great cards” He goes on to explain that this concern stems from some fans becoming spoiled from the amount of events being held and even overly critical of some cards that don’t appear to be comparatively as “stacked” as others.

“I hear some fans saying things like “oh this card sucks, it’s not as good as UFC 100.” The truth is none of these fights suck. Even the ones that don’t look stacked, end up being some of the best. If you’re a fight fan and enjoy good fights, UFC will bring them to you. That’s our business.”

It is a business model that been successful enough in recent years to compete for top bragging rights in the pay-per-view sporting world. UFC has already broken the pay-per-view industry’s all-time records for a single year of business generating over $222 million, surpassing WWE and boxing.

When asked if there were plans for the UFC to counter-program Pacquiao vs. Mayweather Jr. on March 13th of next year, Dana White, a proclaimed boxing fan despite the growing rivalry with the sport, lightly responded, “Come on man. I’m going nowhere near that thing. I actually want to go to that fight.”