First Bernard Hopkins, now Lou DiBella.
Two of boxing’s most prominent figures — and once ardent detractors of mixed martial arts — have changed their tune about the fast-growing sport of MMA. Though he once dismissed the sport as a fad (among other things), The Ring and WBC light heavyweight champion Hopkins could be seen in attendance at UFC 133 in Philly earlier this month and was vocal in his newfound respect for the athletes and the sport of MMA.
DiBella, one of boxing’s top promoters, recently spoke with ESPN.com about MMA, in specific about his agreement with UFC president Dana White’s recent comments made to Yahoo! Sports on the state of boxing and longtime boxing promoter Bob Arum’s role thereof.
“Bob Arum had the ability to do great things for the sport of boxing. You had the ability, Bob Arum, to make boxing great. But the problem was you were greedy. You’re a greedy pig, just like all the other guys who were involved in boxing. All you ever did was try to rip money out of it. You never invested a dime into the sport of boxing to make it great, to make it last, to create a future for boxing. He’s nothing but a greedy pig and his jealousy shows non-stop.” – White
“I agree with a lot of what [Dana White] said,” DiBella told ESPN. “There’s no question that when Don [King] and Bob [Arum] dominated this business for literally generations, that not a lot was invested back in the business. Frankly, Bob Arum admitted as much at his Hall of Fame induction. And the sport is in worse condition today than it’s ever been.”
DiBella even praised White’s approach to business and admitted that boxing could learn from his entertainment-first focus, even if he did pepper his complimentary statement with one from the left hand.
“If a guy fights in retreat, Dana’s not putting him on again. He has an advantage because [UFC] is a monopoly. But that aside, you have to know what people find entertaining,” he asserted. “If you move backward, and I don’t care if a writer says he’s a good fighter, the public doesn’t want to see him. Boxing has lost sight of the fact that it’s a subset of the entertainment business. And Dana has not forgotten that.”
“I had not been a big fan of MMA,” DiBella concluded. “But I now understand it more as a sport, and respect how the UFC is conducting their business. I’m impressed.”