UFC president Dana White is not a man who lives with regret.
Through more than a decade of building and cultivating the UFC, White has remained the figurehead and leader of the business that has seen mixed martial arts hit new heights never before imagined when the sport first landed on television screens in 1993.
White has had his fair share of tumultuous relationships over the years: very public feuds with employees like Tito Ortiz and B.J. Penn, a longstanding pursuit of former Pride champion Fedor Emelianenko and the inside dealings with his management team, and even bridges burnt and rebuilt with promotions and several promoters.
When asked, however, if he had any regrets through his time spent with the UFC, White could only point to one time where he made a major mistake and it still haunts him to this day.
In April 2009 in response to a story written by Loretta Hunt published on Sherdog.com, White went on an expletive filled tirade aimed at the reporter and her story, which claimed some managers had been barred from receiving UFC credentials and access to the backstage area.
White vehemently denied the validity of the story, while attacking the nameless sources used in the article stating, “Any (expletive) guy who won’t put his name on it, first of all whoever gave you that quote is a (expletive) and a (expletive) (expletive) and a (expletive) liar.”
Many of those expletives are commonly called the ‘F’ word, but on that day, White chose to mix in a homophobic slur, which caused an immediate backlash from the gay and lesbian community including a statement from GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) asking for a public apology from the UFC president.
White quickly responded and apologized for his expletive laced tirade, but directed his biggest “I’m sorry” towards the gay community, after using the homophobic and painful remark.
“As far as the gay and lesbian community, my comments were not directed toward them. I have no problem with the gay and lesbian community. I’m actually a supporter of many of their issues,” White said after the original video with his rant was deleted.
“The last thing that I would ever want anybody to think about me, or think is cool, is to go out and attack somebody because of their sexual orientation. That was not my intention. That’s not the way I said it. I apologize for anybody that I’ve offended or hurt.”
Now, more than three years later, in the whole scope of business dealings, fighter relations and other situations, White still looks back on that one lapse in judgment as the biggest mistake he’s made since being with the UFC.
“You guys have to understand this, but this is the way I am. I have no regrets. The only thing that I regret is in that video blog when I used the F word,” White said when speaking to Fuel TV on Tuesday.
“That’s the only thing throughout the 12 years of running the UFC. The way I came off in that thing, people still think I’m some kind of homophobe, and I’m not. That still bothers me.”
It was uncomfortable and unbelievably poor judgment to use that language, but White is still paying for it today, and if there were one thing he could take back or change, it wouldn’t be signing a fighter he missed out on or not having a public feud with a rival – it would be saying words that cut deeper than any punch, kick or elbow thrown inside the Octagon.