Dana White: No Regrets After UFC on Fox Debut
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Dana White: No Regrets After UFC on Fox Debut

Dana White

UFC President Dana White

UFC boss says Hendo-Shogun on Fox may have had negative impact

Bad timing is what many mixed martial arts fans and pundits presumed after Saturday’s Dan Henderson vs. Mauricio “Shogun” Rua five-round instant classic.

How great would it have been for Hendo-Shogun to have happened a week earlier for the UFC’s debut on the Fox network, they wondered, instead of the 64-second knockout Junior dos Santos delivered to champ Cain Velasquez in the heavyweight title fight?

But according to UFC president Dana White, Henderson vs. Shogun for the first go-’round on Fox could have had negative consequences because of the sheer amount of punishment each fighter dished out, and because of how battered Rua’s face, in particular, looked after the fight.

“The big thing is, to go on network television and not have Fox getting flooded the next day with ‘Get this (crap) off the television,'” White told a small group of reporters Saturday after the post-fight press conference for UFC 139 in San Jose, Calif. “If you watched that show, I don’t care if you’re the biggest freak – that’s what these people are. They come out of nowhere. I call them the ‘Nothing Better to Do With Their Lives People.’ Get a job! Have some kids! Do something! These people come out of nowhere and start attacking this sport, literally saying it should go away – that we should shut down the UFC and this thing should go away. OK. That’s realistic.

“But those are the kinds of people who come after you, and it’s just crazy. There was none of that. To have that done, and have none of that is incredible.”

Despite a Fox broadcast that peaked in the 9 million viewers range during the fight, White has heard criticism from fans who said additional fights should have been made available in the event the heavyweight title fight ended quickly – which it did. Those watching the live prelims stream on Facebook or FoxSports.com saw a Fight of the Year candidate lightweight contenders bout between Clay Guida and Ben Henderson.

But White wants to hear none of that criticism, defending the one-hour broadcast with one fight. Planning for a second fight would have meant something had to give. The potential for a 25-minute title fight between Velasquez and dos Santos painted Fox and the UFC into a corner from a time standpoint once walkouts, introductions, taped segments introducing the fighters to a new audience and, of course, commercials were taken into account.

“We did it right the first fight,” White said. “You guys do not understand. You don’t get it. Trust me. I wouldn’t change a thing. It was perfect. It was a great-looking sporting event, the show came off professional like a Fox sports event, everything looked great. The fight was a minute and four (seconds) – it is what it is. Cain Velasquez has literally never been stopped or knocked out, and eight of his last nine wins were by knockout, and he got knocked out.”

The only concern White had at the time was what the ratings would be – after all, a 64-second fight doesn’t leave any time for word of mouth and new viewers coming online during the fight, the way they did for Stephan Bonnar vs. Forrest Griffin I on the first “Ultimate Fighter” finale on Spike TV. A longer fight would likely have meant a larger peak number – but it also could have backfired, with opponents of the sport railing against it being on TV.

“The tough part with the whole thing is, you never know how long the fight’s going to go,” White said. “What worried me was, the thing never really had time to peak and get where it could have. If you could have a Shogun-Henderson type fight on TV, imagine what that number would get to. But that’s not the fight you want for your first time on network television. It couldn’t have gone any better. It worked out perfect for us. I’m pretty happy.”

UFC on Fox 2 is scheduled for Jan. 28 in Chicago. White said that event, for television, will likely feature four fights and be a two-hour broadcast.

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