It is time to consider a UFC without Dana White | Karim Zidan

Dana White’s decision to physically assault his wife raises questions about whether the UFC president is fit to continue running the world’s largest mixed martial arts organization

Nine years ago – in the wake of footage surfacing of former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice brutally assaulting his fiancée – UFC president Dana White took the opportunity to speak out against domestic violence.

“There’s one thing that you never bounce back from and that’s putting your hands on a woman,” White told Fox Sports Live in 2014. “Been that way in the UFC since we started here. You don’t bounce back from putting your hands on a woman.”

Despite White’s strong stance at the time, the 53-year-old was recently caught on camera in a physical altercation with his wife, Anne, at a New Year’s Eve party in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Footage published by TMZ 0n Monday showed Anne slapping White at a nightclub. White then returned the slap and tried to strike her again before others intervened.

Speaking to TMZ the next day, White confirmed the “horrible” incident. “There’s never ever an excuse for a guy to put his hands on a woman, and now here I am on TMZ talking about it.”

“This is one of those situations that’s horrible, I’m embarrassed – but it’s also one of those situations that right now we’re more concerned about our kids,” White continued. “We have three kids and obviously since the video popped up, we’ve shown the kids the video, and we’re more focused on our family right now.”

The UFC president maintained that the altercation was the “first time” that such an incident occurred. “I’m literally making no excuses for this thing at all. It’s never happened before,” he said.

In a separate statement to TMZ, Anne revealed that the couple had been “drinking too much on New Year’s Eve and things got out of control, on both sides”.

Despite White’s attempt to control the narrative, his decision to physically assault his wife raises questions about whether the UFC president is fit to continue running the world’s largest mixed martial arts organization.

White has served as UFC president for more than two decades, taking up the mantle in 2001 when his business partners, casino tycoons Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta, purchased the UFC for $2m. During White’s tenure, the UFC grew into a global juggernaut and was eventually acquired for $4bn in July 2016 – the richest sale in the history of professional sports at the time.

Yet despite the UFC’s continued success and rising profit margins, Endeavor, the media and entertainment company that owns the UFC, saw its shares fall nearly 6% after news of the altercation became public. This, coupled with the public relations nightmare of having the president of a combat sports entity strike his wife in public, could force Endeavor to distance itself from White.

It is difficult to imagine a commissioner for a major sports league such as the NBA or NFL striking their partner without facing significant consequences. Even White, when asked about whether NFL commissioner Roger Goodell should resign following his mishandling of the Rice domestic abuse case in 2014, suggested Goddell “should just get up and leave on his own”.

Nevertheless, it is unlikely that White will face consequences for his actions from the UFC, as the organization’s handling of domestic violence incidents has been inconsistent at best. Despite White’s claim that fighters “never bounce back” from hitting women, there are plenty of examples of UFC fighters who continued to fight for the organization over the years despite allegations of domestic or sexual assault.

In 2018, Greg Hardy – the former NFL defensive end once convicted for assaulting his ex-girlfriend – made his UFC debut on the same event that also featured Rachael Ostovich, a fighter who was also a victim of domestic violence. When White eventually faced criticism for his position on Hardy, he blamed the media for stirring trouble.

“I’m not playing this bullshit with you guys. [Hardy] is on the UFC roster. Period. End of story,” White said at the time.

MMA is a sport that has long been plagued by domestic violence. In 2015, HBO’s Real Sports revealed that the amount of domestic violence arrests involving MMA fighters was more than double the average national rate, and was far ahead of NFL players. The sport continues to serve up high-profile domestic assault cases. In 2021, former UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones was arrested following an alleged incident involving his wife with their children present just hours after he was inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame. He was initially charged with domestic violence but had the charge dropped following a plea deal with prosecutors.

A few weeks later, UFC Hall of Famer Chuck Liddell was arrested on a domestic violence charge in southern California involving his wife. No charges were filed following the arrest. White’s physical altercation with his wife is merely the latest in a long line of domestic violence cases that have marred the UFC and the sport as a whole.

Endeavor, the parent company of the UFC, and UFC have not responded to the Guardian’s request for comment. ESPN – the UFC’s broadcast partner – redirected the Guardian to the UFC’s public relations team.

In an ironic twist of fate, White also happens to be the face of a new “competitive open-handed striking” league called Power Slap. The so-called sport will feature matches where two competitors stand across from each other and trade slaps across the face. Power Slap, which was created by White and Lorenzo Fertitta in partnership with the UFC and Endeavor, is expected to debut its eight-episode series on TBS next week.

“I saw some footage of slap fighting on social media and I was instantly hooked,” White said in a UFC press release announcing the slap-fighting league. “From the first day I saw it, I felt like this could be big.”

Beyond the obvious controversy of having a man who slapped his wife serve as the figurehead of a new slap-fighting league, medical professionals have expressed their skepticism regarding the organization’s health and safety measures and whether it will protect competitors from traumatic brain injuries.

Warner Media, the parent company of TBS, did not respond to a request for comment on White at the time of writing.

While White’s latest project is his new slap-fighting league, he remains synonymous with the UFC brand. However, his latest controversy could mark a turning point in the organization’s history –one that compels us to consider a UFC without Dana White at the helm.

As White himself once said: “You don’t bounce back from putting your hands on a woman.”


Karim Zidan

The GuardianTramp

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