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Dana's Denial And Playing Favourites

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Don't Cross The Boss via

Dana White still believes BJ Penn beat Jon Fitch at UFC 127. At least that's what he's been publicly stating. The ever vocal president of the Ultimate Fighting Championship spoke to recently and had this to say:

"I didn't think it was a draw. I looked at the scorecards and the two judges who had it a draw scored the first two rounds for Penn and the third round a 10-8 [for Fitch].

"Personally, I scored the first two rounds for Penn and had him winning the fight. There's no doubt B.J. got pounded in the third round, but that wasn't a 10-8 round."

What's interesting about this quote is he doesn't mention Fitch by name (the parentheses were added by ESPN). It's "first two rounds for Penn" and "B.J. got pounded in the third" rather than "Fitch won the third". It's hard to tell if this is a deliberate or subconscious exclusion or if all Dana can think about is BJ Penn. It's certainly obvious Dana would rather promote Penn over Fitch due to Penn being the more marketable fighter and having the more pleasing fighting style.

Dana White can dismiss the last round as being scored by "idiot judges" especially with the history of questionable scoring over the last 12 months, and since earlier that night there was an obvious issue with the outcome of the Ring vs Fukuda fight. Any media that agree with the third round scored as a 10-8 can be dismissed by White as "Internet idiots" and I'm sure he'll get enough of his twitter followers (also on the Internet) to mindlessly parrot him if he hasn't already.

The real spanner in the works of White's opinion - and it is just that, no matter how emphatically he continues to state it - is FightMetric scoring the fight for Fitch, in both their own scoring method and the unified rules scoring method. FightMetric last year made the news when they became the official fight statistics provider of the UFC, and you can see this endorsement at the top of every page on the FightMetric website.

In particular the third round FightMetric shows how completely one sided it was in favor of Fitch. By their total effectiveness scores, round one goes to Penn 76-40, Round 2 goes to Fitch but only just with 80-69, but Round 3 is scored for Fitch 153-14. And again, this is how the Official Statistics Provider of the UFC scored the fight. And yet all we keep hearing from Dana White is how there's "no way" the third round was a 10-8 for Fitch.

The problem evident in all this is how Dana White plays favourites with his fighters. Dana White has serious issues with Jon Fitch. Fitch is a grinder, that's how he wins fights and many believe that style doesn't sell as well as the Flash & Bang of other fighters. In a sporting context though it's still a legitimate way to win a fight and there is an audience who appreciate Fitch's technical ability in those fights, as limited as that audience might be. Then Dana White has had many issues with Jon Fitch's team, the American Kickboxing Academy and most notably their "Won't Fight Friends" policy which in particular directly effects Fitch, Josh Koscheck and Mike Swick who all fight at Welterweight. And to top it off White became irate a couple of years ago when Fitch didn't want to sign his likeness rights to the UFC that was a lifetime policy. So enraged by Fitch for not giving away his own intellectual property (if you don't own the rights to your own name and physical appearance, what do you own?) he fired Fitch and it took the cooler head of Lorenzo Fertitta to speak with AKA's management to re-instate the fighter.

For all these reasons Dana White is going to continue to trumpet his claim that the scoring was wrong because he would rather have Penn as the winner and not Fitch, and it wouldn't surprise me if White is just waiting for Fitch to lose so he can cut him from the promotion and make revisionist claims that Fitch was never that good and could no longer cut it in the UFC just as he has done with other fighters previously under contract that had given him a headache.

If it's a matter of wanting fighters like Fitch to take more risks when they fight to get a finish and to be more crowd pleasing then Dana White and the UFC have to adjust their draconian fight contract policy. Fighters do just enough to win to stay employed because of the notoriety of being cut after one loss. To get the best out of your fighters, offer them security in their contracts - a 3 fight contract should mean just that, 3 fights even if it's 3 losses in a row on that contract. Similarly if you sign them for more than 3 fights such as 5 or 7 or whatever the number is, stick to that number so it's not in the back of their mind and a worry so that they're free to take risks and go for it in a fight. Also don't threaten to cut their pay after a loss. Instead an incentive would be to increase their base pay after a win especially if it's a finish. Think of it as a long term KO / Submission of the night bonus. If they lose or go to a decision, the base pay stays the same.

If it's a matter of friends not fighting friends, there has to be a compromise that benefits both parties. Someone has to win, and someone has to lose. The outcome can effect that fighter for the rest of his career. I can see Friends fighting Friends if the right financial incentive is there, and if you really want to see it don't be cheap about it. Save it for title eliminators (where when you say the winner gets a title shot, you actually mean it) or even title fights. Guarantee the loser's current fight contract or offer him a new one that you will honor.

If it's a matter of likeness rights, the likeness rights should only be for the duration of their contract with the UFC and a non-compete clause if the fighter leaves while a piece of merchandise (like a videogame or action figure) is already under development, but the clause ends once that merchandise has been released for public sale or has been shelved / scrapped.

The problem with playing favourites like this is it's just plain bad fight promotion. Unless you're going to build a fighter's profile by having him at war with the Boss much like Vince McMahon did with Steve Austin at the tail end of the 1990's, all you are doing is burying the fighters you're meant to be promoting. So the fight ends in a draw, so what? It's easily rectified by an instant rematch and for 5 rounds this time as Dana White has publicly stated interest in having 5 round main events whether there is a title on the line or not. The only reason Dana White would have issue with this is if he doesn't want Fitch to beat Penn because he doesn't want Fitch getting another shot at the title, whether Georges St Pierre is still there or not. By playing favourites like this we're only a few steps removed from the pre-determined booking of Professional Wrestling and we get further away from the sport of MMA. The UFC already gets criticism for being Pro Wrestling-like in certain areas but this is certainly an area where they could do without the comparison.

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