White: The night a fake tattoo almost brought down the UFC

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

UFC president appeared recently on the Real Quick with Mike Swick podcast, and recounted the time a fake tattoo almost brought down the whole show.

Zuffa bought the UFC in January of 2001 and was bleeding big money. UFC 39 was held on September 27, 2002 at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut, with Randy Couture and Ricco Rodriguez headlining. While the sponsorship market was far more open than it was now, there were two firm prohibitions – you couldn’t market another fight promotion, and you couldn’t market a casino at another casino.

Golden Palace online casino was enjoying success with ambush stunts. Streaker Mark Roberts sported their url tattooed on his body as he ran naked through Super Bowl 38, for example. And when the UFC prohibited Rodriguez from putting the logo on his shorts, tee, and hat, he got it temporarily tattooed on his back.

“Everybody knew that because we were at a casino, you couldn’t have a casino sponsor,” said White, as transcribed by Jeff Cain for MMA Weekly. “That’s the time that Golden Palace and all that stuff was doing that. And what does this f***ing idiot do? Forget a t-shirt, he goes out and tattoos it on his back. Right? He gets a tattoo.

“So what happened was the tribe said ‘we’re shutting down the show. We’re not having it.’ It was the main event. So Lorenzo and I got in a room with these guys and worked it out with them but he almost shut down the show. Back in those days, a show getting shut down like that could’ve put us outta business.”

“You gotta understand, when we do those things, we’re fronting all the money. We’re putting up a couple million bucks and fronting all this money to put on a show. And if these guys would’ve shut that show down that might have been the end of us.”

Rodriguez was paid $100,000 and then bet on himself at +500, clearing $600,000 from the stunt. His purse was for 30-30. But he was blacklisted by the UFC, and never fought for the league again after losing his title in the next event; Rodriguez says he doesn’t blame them.

The UFC went on and ended up ok – it sold last year for about $4 billion, the largest sale in sports’ history.