Fertitta: Dana was misunderstood

Thursday, November 21, 2013

ZUFFA CEO Lorenzo Fertitta help a press conference in New York state in aid of efforts to regulated mixed martial arts in The Empire State.

Afterwards, Fertitta did a wide-ranging interview with Ariel Helwani, that started with a question about why he has been for years relentless in the pursuit of MMA in New York.

Short answer – “we’re fighters.”

Among the other topics covered were the remarks UFC president Dana White made about UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre at the UFC 167 post fight press conference. White took issue at the time with GSP’s vague insinuation that he needed a break, maybe forever.

“You owe it to the fans, you owe it to that belt, you owe to this company, and you owe it to Johny Hendricks to give him that opportunity to fight again,” said White at the time, crucially adding “unless you’re going to retire.

“There’s no I’m going to go on a cruise, and I’m going to be gone for two years, and I’m going to take a hiatus. I’m going to take a leave of absence. Whatever the hell it was that he was saying. That’s not how it works.”

Although Dana White, alone among fight promoters ever, has hastened the retirement of some fighters, he was taken to task by many members of the MMA media.

Fertitta offered explanation.

“I think Dana was misunderstood and think hopefully he’s trying to clarify that,” said Fertitta, as trascribed by MMAFighting. “GSP doesn’t owe us anything. If he chooses to retire, then so be it, he’ll retire and become someone that people will always look up to as one of the great champions in the UFC. If he decides to fight again, then great. I think where the confusion was, Georges never communicated anything to us prior to the fight relative to that he may be making an announcement. In fact, I think Dana said that he had talked to him and he said ‘no no no, everything’s fine.’

“And then after the fight, the announcement he made was very vague. And I think what Dana was trying to say was that either you’re retired or you’re not, right? We can’t just put the UFC belt on the shelf for an undefined period, basically put it in limbo forever, because that’s not fair to the contenders that have been working their whole lifetime to get the opportunity to get the belt. It’s not fair to the fans to have the title sit on the side for too long. And it’s not fair to us as a company because we wouldn’t be able to plan. I think that’s what the message was meant to be, but I think unfortunately the press took it in a different way.

“Georges doesn’t owe us anything. Just, what I think he does owe us is – clarify what you’re doing, right? Just let us know so we can plan.”

“There’s a lot of rumors. Look, we talked about a lot of different things. In some ways, it’s interesting because when we bought this business, nobody knew who the fighters were. It was almost like an underground sport in a lot of ways. They could walk down the street here in New York City and eat in a restaurant and nobody would know them.

“There is a sense of celebrity that is now involved, and along with that celebrity, particularly when you carry a country, there’s pressure that’s associated with it. I think it’s tough to be Georges St-Pierre some days. You know what I mean? There’s a lot of pressure that goes along with it, but he’s a consummate professional and he handles it great. He always lives up to anything we’ve ever asked him to do and he always performs in the octagon in the bright lights. So I think it’s just a moment in time, and I think he’s going to be fine.”