On Saturday the irreverent MMA website CagePotato did a piece on the UFC becoming Jon Jones' official clothing sponsor for his UFC 145 showdown with 'divorced' former teammate Rashad Evans. The story included a reference to UFC President Dana White betting $500,000 on Jones.
Should Dana White or any promoter bet on a fighter on a card they promote, the result at the very least would be a suspension of promoter license by any legitimate Athletic Commission. The issue is perhaps even more sensitive as the UFC majority owners Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta own sports books through their Station Casinos; Station does not accept wagers on UFC fights.
The UFC reacted swiftly, issuing this release.
Zuffa, LLC, dba the Ultimate Fighting Championship® (UFC®), today announced that it served a demand for retraction upon the parent entities and executives of the website CagePotato regarding certain false and defamatory statements attributed to UFC® President, Dana White, in an April 14th website posting.
As detailed in the formal demand for a retraction prepared by UFC® attorney, Donald J. Campbell of the Las Vegas law firm, Campbell & Williams:
"The claim that Mr. White would financially wager on the outcome of a UFC® event is outrageous in the extreme. Indeed, in the verified complaint we are presently preparing for Mr. White's signature upon his return from Abu Dhabi, Mr. White expressly states under oath that at no time in the history of his association with the UFC® has he ever financially wagered on the outcome of a UFC® event."
Mr. Campbell further explained that under Nevada law a demand for retraction is the first required step in the filing of a lawsuit seeking punitive damages against a party that has maliciously published defamatory statements about another.
Today CagePotato managing editor Ben Goldstein issued a retraction and apology, and removed the story from the site:
Retraction: Dana White Has Never Financially Wagered on the Outcome of a UFC Event
On Saturday, we published a post about the UFC’s sponsorship of Jon Jones for his upcoming fight against Rashad Evans, which included a satirical caption about UFC president Dana White betting money on the fight. The caption was intended to be a joke, and we were confident that it would interpreted that way by our readers. Earlier today, we received a press release announcing that the UFC and Dana White are demanding a retraction “regarding certain false and defamatory statements attributed to UFC® President, Dana White.” As the release stated:
“The claim that Mr. White would financially wager on the outcome of a UFC® event is outrageous in the extreme. Indeed, in the verified complaint we are presently preparing for Mr. White’s signature upon his return from Abu Dhabi, Mr. White expressly states under oath that at no time in the history of his association with the UFC® has he ever financially wagered on the outcome of a UFC® event.”
CagePotato doesn’t contest any part of this request; we hereby retract the line in question, which has since been removed from our site. Again, the caption wasn’t published with any malicious intent whatsoever, but we understand that Dana White’s reputation would be harmed if our readers actually believed that he bets on the UFC’s matches. Once again, Dana White does not bet on his own fights, and he never has. We apologize for any misunderstanding the caption may have caused.
Later, in an interview with USAToday's Sergio Non, Goldstein sounded a contrary note.
"This is just so silly that I want to print this retraction and get this behind us," Goldstein said. "I have no problem saying on our website, 'Look, it's just a joke. We didn't mean it to be intended this way.' I'm just not interested in turning this into some sort of beef with UFC. It's really not that important to me."
"Maybe it's something that hits very close to home for him. He doesn't want to be seen as someone who would ever bet on his own fights. ... I can respect that, because if people started believe that the head of UFC was actually betting on his own fights, that's a serious allegation."
"MMA fans in general understand this is obviously just a joke, and for Dana White to take it personally and make such a big deal of it is kind of silly."
"I have no problem swallowing my ego and apologizing for a joke. But if it turns out that they want to set their lawyers on us on a regular basis because of satirical captions we write on our website, then we'll fight back. We'll get our own lawyers involved and defend ourselves. ... We're not going to change the way we do business."
CagePotato writer Jason Moles reached out to White via twitter to get a temperature reading:
@DanaWhite Here is @CagePotatoMMA's retraction. http://t.co/g4YtG4gZ We cool?
White's response was characteristically blunt.
@TheJasonMoles not even close
Related MMA gear from the UG Store