by Ken Pishna – MMAWeekly.com
Ultimate Fighting Championship president Dana White and several of his fighters addressed the media on Monday. While much of the talk centered on this weekend’s UFC 78 event in Newark, N.J., White also addressed several other pressing issues.
With the recent announcement that lightweight champion Sean Sherk’s appeal hearing before the California State Athletic Commission has been pushed back yet again, to Dec. 4, and the B.J. Penn vs. Joe Stevenson fight at UFC 80 proclaimed a bout for the interim lightweight title, Sherk’s situation is right at the fore.
Ever since it came to light that Sherk had tested positive for steroids following his July 7 title defense, White has shown public support for his champion.
“He looked me in the eye and told me like a man, ‘I didn’t do it.’ I believe him,” said the UFC president in early August. “I don’t think he’s a liar. I don’t think he’s a cheater. He’s a good guy, he works hard and I’m going to take his word for it.”
As recently as Nov. 2, Yahoo! Sports’ Kevin Iole was reporting that White said he would not strip Sherk of his title. But even though he has still publicly supported Sherk, as the case has continued to draw out, it appears that stripping him of his title has one again become an option.
In announcing the interim title fight, White stated, “The belt can’t be in limbo for this long. I’ve said since the beginning that I believe in Sean Sherk, but we have to support the athletic commission in whatever decision they make.”
He added to that during Monday’s conference call.
“B.J. Penn and Joe Stevenson are going to fight for the interim title. We’ll see what happens with Sherk. If Sherk is found guilty, we’ll support the (California) State Athletic Commission and he’ll probably be stripped of his title. If not, then he’ll keep his title and it will be champion vs. champion.”
If that weren’t enough, the UFC has also had to deal with the discord with its heavyweight champion, Randy Couture, who suddenly “resigned” from the promotion in early October.
Following several public statements and presentations from both sides expressing disappointment over the situation, recent speculation is that Mark Cuban’s new fight promotion, HDNet Fights, has offered Couture a position within the company and that he is close to, if not already, accepting the offer.
White however, indicated that the UFC has offered its champion a title defense and is awaiting a response.
“We officially offered it to him and we haven’t heard back yet. We should know this week. He (sent me a text message) yesterday and said he wants to sit down and talk.”
Asked if there would possibly be an interim belt issued for the heavyweight division as well, White was emphatic that would not happen.
“No. Randy’s going to make a decision one-way or the other. We’re going to get together next week, I think, and talk and see where we’re at.”
OTHER NOTES OF INTEREST
– The next UFC Fight Night is currently scheduled for Jan. 23. No location or bout details were given.
– The UFC has started to focus on sanctioning in the state of New York. White said that the promotion plans on being in New York by late 2008 or early 2009.
– The UFC plans on returning to Florida in 2008, as well. A city and date have yet to be determined, but it is likely to be a pay-per-view event held in a city other than Hollywood, where the promotion has run several UFC Fight Nights.
– White declined comment on talks regarding a network television deal – the UFC is believed to be in talks with CBS – other than to say, “I’m talking to a lot of people right now. One thing we’ve always done is we’ve always taken this thing to another level every year. Wait until you see what we’re going to do in 2008.”