UFC president Dana White doesn’t regret his infamous TMZ sound bite from January 2011 that women will “never” fight in the UFC. But this week nobody is letting him forget it.
“I don’t cringe when I hear it … But every interview I have done leading up to this fight this week, they play that clip,” White said Thursday at the UFC 157 pre-fight press conference to promote the first-ever women’s fight featuring Ronda Rousey and Liz Carmouche.
“The way I look at it is it wasn’t just me, but a lot of people felt negative about women competing in this sport. But after I did my homework and I saw some of these fights and I got into it and I met the girls, it is the right thing to do. And I’m proud to be standing here today announcing that this fight is going to happen in two days.”
Thanks in no small part to the star Rousey, who holds the UFC women’s bantamweight belt by virtue of being the last Strikeforce women’s champion, but defends it for the first time in Saturday’s main event in Anaheim, Calif., White said their bout has gotten the most attention “by far” of any fight they’ve ever had in the UFC.
“I’m not just talking media attention but attention from ‘big-time media,’” White emphasized.
“HBO wasn’t coming to try to do stories on us (before). But I flew from Vegas to Los Angeles because they asked me to, did an hour interview, and they didn’t put in one word of what I said. They wanted to hear from her.”
Asked by a reporter if it was a fair comparison to when former WWE superstar Brock Lesnar made his much-anticipated UFC debut five years ago, White said, “No. She blows him out of the water. No fighter has ever fought in the UFC that has had as much attention as she has. That’s a fact.”
White said that he never expected this to be the case, or if it did, he didn’t think it would be positive — “I thought it would be freak show.” But, according to him, nobody has trashed this main event.
Dana:”I could not be happier with the way this entire thing has gone” #UFC157 presser.
Indeed, the UFC’s foray into female fighting — and in particular Rousey’s story — has been covered by many outlets who otherwise might not have touched cage fighting, or at least not to such an extent — HBO, Time Magazine, the New York Times, to name a few. And while many fans remain skeptical, finding media criticizing the UFC’s newest division has been a tough task.
Whether the curiosity for this debut makes this a one-time thing or it will translate into long-term success for the women is another question. But White said the UFC is committed to the cause beyond just its poster girl.
“Ronda gets a lot of attention, and a lot of the story people want to hear,” White said. “But two women are going to fight and one is going to win. And that woman is going to defend the title. That’s the way it works.”
Other women fighters have already been signed by the UFC, including Cat Zingano, Alexis Davis, Miesha Tate and Sara McMann (pictured in above tweet).
White said only cheap seats remain and he is predicting a sellout of the Honda Center, which has a capacity in the neighbourhood of 18,000, come fight night.
One reporter commented that the UFC’s current audience is 25 per cent female and wondered if we’ll see an increase in that number as a result of this.
“Hopefully it does,” White said. “What I do think will happen is the fact you can come here now and make money and be a professional athlete will have a huge impact on the sport. Look at how the men have evolved in 13 years. I think it will blow up (for the women) over the next few years.”