UFC President Dana White has never been one to mince his words.
After recently signing a monumental 7-year deal with Fox Sports that will see all of the UFC’s programming move over to the network giant, an interview with ESPN scheduled for the next week was immediately taken off the books.
White responded to the ESPN move on Twitter stating that they’ve always hated the UFC, and going as far as saying “(expletive) ESPN.”
Now that cooler heads have prevailed, White appeared on 790am in Miami on Thursday, an ESPN affiliate, and explained that things have been put back together between the two organizations.
“They did some stuff, but we’ve made up since then,” White stated.
When asked to explain what exactly went on, White told the story about the Fox deal and how that obviously rattled more than a few cages at ESPN.
“I’ll tell you exactly what they did. When we announced the Fox deal, I was supposed to go to ESPN on Monday and do what’s called the ‘car wash.’ Basically, you go into ESPN in Bristol (Conn.) and you go through all the shows. When we announced the Fox deal, they canceled me and said, ‘oh yeah, we’re booked.’ Booked? You had me booked on Monday!” White proclaimed.
“It’s just petty little stuff like that they do. They never give us the respect that I feel the athletes deserve. Listen, you don’t have to love this sport, but don’t deny that these guys are the greatest conditioned athletes in the world. All these other guys in the NFL and Major League Baseball are cross-training in mixed martial arts now in the off season.”
Never one to back down from a fight, White admits that when ESPN has an issue with him or the UFC, he’s going to go to battle with them or anybody and won’t apologize for standing up for the sport.
“I’m going to fight with ESPN when they do stuff like this, and they treat our guys like that. It drives me nuts,” White said.
Over the years, ESPN‘s coverage of MMA has picked up with shows like MMA Live and having a dedicated MMA section on their website, as well as features on shows like SportsCenter and ESPN: First Take during different events.
Still, White, who maintains a friendly working relationship with ESPN vice president and general manager John Skipper, doesn’t believe the UFC gets nearly the coverage it deserves on the sports giant.
“I talked to Skipper, and I’ve had a great relationship with Skipper, yet still can’t get anything done over at ESPN,” commented White.
“ESPN is a news network, they cover everything. I mean, these guys cover the hot dog eating championships, ping pong, and darts are on ESPN. The cheerleading competition, the list goes on of all these fine, fabulous sporting events with all these incredible athletes. The spelling bee, yet the UFC does not get covered by ESPN.”
One thing that was made clear on Thursday is that while White still hopes ESPN will eventually come around and recognize MMA for the sport that its become, they were never one of the networks in the race to land the UFC for a TV deal.
“We talked to everybody. We were out there literally talked to every network and negotiated with everybody, but no, ESPN was never really in (discussions),” White confirmed.
Ultimately, White is very happy with the deal they landed with Fox, and whether ESPN’s coverage of the sport amps up or not, the UFC will continue to succeed in spite of or despite mainstream acceptance.