Coming Full Circle: UFC President Dana White Searching for Violence in All the Wrong Places
By: Jesse Donathan
Dana White has an insatiable appetite for violence, and like a seasoned junkie with a tolerance level to match White is growing increasingly dissatisfied and frustrated with the lack of violence on the field of play. The UFC President is looking for killers, not wrestlers. Fighters, not athletes. Though obviously in the sport of mixed martial arts all of those elements come into play. But White only needs to look to the very recent past to take all his troubles away.
According to a March 27, 2007 MMAJunkie.com article titled, “Dana White: UFC and PRIDE Will Have Unified Rules,” the technicalities of the rule book that separated PRIDE Fighting Championships from its new proprietors were to cease to be as the UFC’s acquisition of the Japanese based promotion would bring PRIDE FC under the auspices of Zuffa LLC., the then parent company of the UFC who ultimately shelved PRIDE FC indefinitely. Quoting from a reviewjournal.com article with UFC President Dana White, MMAJunkie.com went on to report:
“This is a sport and we’re going to follow the unified rules that were established in New Jersey and then in Nevada,” White said. “It’s a sport — mixed martial arts — and the sport should have the same rules everywhere. As far as I’m concerned, if an organization doesn’t follow these rules, it’s not MMA. It’s something else, but that’s not MMA.”
In April of 2001, “the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board adopted a set of standards that would become known as the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts,” writes author Adam Hill in his April 24, 2013 bleacherreport.com article titled, “A Timeline of UFC Rules: From No-Holds-Barred to Highly Regulated.” The unified rules of mixed martial arts were little more than the result of government regulation into a once violently captivating event that managed to capture the imaginations of mixed martial arts earliest fans.
According to the report, “Ultimate Fighting took a huge hit in 1996 when Sen. John McCain, a supposed boxing fan, saw a UFC tape and famously characterized it as “human cock-fighting.” McCain went on a crusade against MMA and was successful in getting the UFC banned in all 50 states.” With the UFC adopting the New Jersey Unified Rules model Senator McCain was reportedly pleased with the sports new face. According to the Adam Hill report McCain was quoted as stating that, “The sport has grown up. The rules have been adopted to give its athletes better protections and to ensure fairer competition.”
“The list of fouls ballooned from the original three to 30,” writes Hill. And with the implementation of the Unified Rule set, the no-holds-barred era of mixed martial arts was officially closed, perhaps forever. And, in its place, a watered down, pseudo version of the real thing emerged in its wake. Today’s version of mixed martial arts nothing more than a more palatable, controllable version of combat sports for the ruling political elite, not the ordinary average Joes on the street responsible for the sport’s early success.
Only it appears as if UFC President Dana White is beginning to come back full circle to the originally intended visions of the sport, throwing conventional understanding of how to secure victory in the modern era of mixed martial arts out the window in denying Brendan Loughnane a UFC contract on the reality television show “Dana White’s Contender Series” after the young fighter went for a takedown late in the fight, going on to win the contest by unanimous decision.
“When you come onto this show, unlike any other show you would fight in or whatever, I’m looking for killers,” said the UFC President Dana White in the June 19, 2019 MMAFighting.com article titled, “Dana White confirms Brendan Loughnane’s late takedown cost him UFC contract” by author Damon Martin.
No, securing takedowns isn’t against the rules. In fact, securing takedowns is often credited with controlling the fight and as such has a long history as being viewed as a dominant maneuver and position in mixed martial arts. Loughnane was following years of understanding in executing traditional mixed martial arts paradigm inside the cage yet was ultimately denied a UFC contract as a result of performing how he was trained to do inside the field of play.
The definition of killer is, “one that has a forceful, violent, or striking impact,” according to Merriam-Webster. And while I appreciate White’s desire to see more violent fights, the fact is once upon a time there were more violent versions of mixed martial arts. We called it no-holds-barred, or even more recently PRIDE FC.
And the current, watered down version of the sport under the Unified Rules set, where wrestlers by in large dominate the Octagon and takedowns are given priority in determining the outcomes of fights is a long championed tradition by none other than Dana White and the UFC themselves. They are the worlds premiere mixed martial arts organization and the importance and emphasis on takedowns in securing victory inside the Octagon started none other than inside the UFC’s eight-sided, caged circle. A little self-reflection please?
Today’s modern mixed martial arts landscape is little more than a pseudo version of the real thing, the realization of those who sought to regulate the sport out of existence. The UFC enjoys the spoils as having saved the sport from certain ruin while simultaneously baring responsibility for what it has ultimately become.
What the UFC really needs isn’t more killers, it needs de-regulation so that the field of play can more closely resemble the realities of actual hand-to-hand combat. Instead of searching for more violent fighters to add to the promotion, the UFC simply needs to lobby to have the training wheels taken off the sport and the violence part will all but take care of itself on its own.
The only killers in the sport of mixed martial arts is the regulatory bodies which handcuff the athletes and deprive the public of what they really want to see. The UFC President Dana White wants a paradigm shift away from the significance placed on takedowns and a renewed focused placed on bringing violence back to the field of play. And re-introducing the no-holds-barred era to mixed martial arts or bringing back PRIDE FC is just the answer he is looking for.