Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC
UFC President Dana White has rarely bitten his tongue regarding anything that threatens or harms his business, but there was a time when his comments almost got the promotion booted out of its home state.
According to White, he received a heated call from then-Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval after pointedly criticizing the state athletic commission following an event in Las Vegas.
While he never got into specifics surrounding the comments that led to the call, White famously erupted on the commission after Georges St-Pierre defeated Johny Hendricks at UFC 167; the UFC exec said Sandoval “needs to fix this thing” after the highly controversial decision.
“Back then when I was going crazy on the athletic commission, I was home on a Sunday morning after a fight and my phone rang and it was the Governor of Nevada,” White said on The Pat McAfee Show. “Me and him had one of those [conversations], he’s like, ‘You ever f*cking talk sh*t about the state of Nevada again, I’ll pull your license, you’ll never promote another fight again in this [state].’
“I said thank you sir, may I have another. No, I did not [fight him].”
As far as White’s ongoing battle for better officiating, from judging to referees, he conceded it’s a never-ending fight, and he’s always hopeful for improvements.
White famously targeted Steve Mazzagatti for years after the referee made a number of questionable calls. Mazzagatti eventually stopped appearing as an official at UFC events.
White said education is really the key when it comes to officials working in combat sports but mistakes will still happen no matter what.
“It’s one of the hardest things to fix actually,” White said. “We’re regulated by the state. The state oversees us to make sure everything is a fair playing field. I can’t overrule them. Believe me, I think you remember back in the day when I used to go crazy over [Steve] Mazzagatti cause he was such a bad ref. At that point, the Nevada State Athletic Commission is the strongest commission in the world, and at that point in time, they were the weakest. It was very frustrating for us, but all you can do is offer assistance and train these guys better.
“The NFL [doesn’t] always make the greatest calls, the NBA doesn’t make the greatest calls. You’re always going to have bad officiating. It’s always going to happen.”