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What Do We Do About Dana White? The Answer Can’t Be Nothing.

The UFC President struck his wife at least twice and all the evidence is on camera. Let’s talk about what needs to happen next — as well as what absolutely cannot be allowed to happen.

Comparing Dana White to Roger Goodell, Adam Silver, or Rob Manfred isn’t quite the way we ought to look at him. Rather, the UFC President is more like Vince McMahon, or perhaps Don King if he was just as Republican, but took PEDs instead of crazy pills.

That’s why, “if Roger Godell had slapped his wife on camera, he’d be sacked immediately” is an unproductive way of thinking. After all, the UFC isn’t a sports league held up by franchise owners and their respective organizations. Rather it’s a division of Endeavor, a publicly-traded company, that has been famously hands-off regarding its day-to-day operations since first acquiring a majority stake in the MMA promotion in 2016.

That said, Dana White did strike his wife Anne at least two times at a Cabo nightclub on New Year’s Eve, as confirmed by video footage obtained by TMZ. No amount of malignant, unserious “…but she hit him first!” bloviating does a solitary thing to change the fact that a severe transgression took place — one that the scandalized exec simply cannot be permitted to walk away from with impunity.

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Let’s establish several things that are true:

  • In a perfect world, White would either relinquish all public-facing responsibilities with the UFC or resign from his position as President entirely.
  • Neither of the above is going to happen.
  • Dana White’s “Power Slap” — a new and ridiculous slap-fighting competition seemingly innovating new ways to deliver CTE to combatants that are defenseless by design — had committed to airing its first show on Jan. 11 on TBS.

You can’t make this stuff up. Less than two weeks after assaulting his wife, Dana White was due to make his debut as a slapping mogul. It might be downright hilarious if it wasn’t horrifying — more on this in a moment, as recent developments have come to light.

All this is to say, there’s no “moving on” here. An apology delivered within the fluffy, home-field confines of TMZ doesn’t even begin to ameliorate this situation. There’s a lot of uncomfortable work that simply must be done to pull things back from the brink. Not just for Dana White and his family, but the UFC and parent Endeavor, TV partner ESPN and parent Disney, and Power Slap, TBS, and parent Warner Bros. Discovery.

I see four paths ahead here. Let’s examine each one.

Absolutely nothing happens

This is the worst-case scenario, and it’s demoralizingly plausible given Dana White’s Trumplike ability to elude formal consequences for appalling behavior — misogynistic, homophobic, transphobic… you can pretty much take your pick.

More fundamentally, its relative likelihood is an indictment of the undeniable, teeth-gnashing moral rot that exists at the very center of MMA culture.

There’s really no turning back after this one. In addition to serving as further evidence that White can do whatever he wants, whenever he wants with a permanent get-out-of-jail-free card, it presupposes that Disney/ESPN chose to do nothing, perhaps increasing the likelihood that they’re interested in continuing on as the UFC’s exclusive broadcast partner beyond the bounds of its current five-year deal that runs through 2023.

Self-imposed exile

This is the best-case scenario. White loves dunking on members of the media — or at least the ones who behave in literally any way that doesn’t feed his outrageous ego, right up to and including straight-up toadying.

With that in mind, there actually is a nonzero chance that he steps aside from his public duties on a temporary basis in a way that’s presented as being of his own accord (whether that’s actually the case or not). Think about it: He’d not only get the chance to go full straw man and call out unnamed, hypothetical members of the press for insisting that he’d emerge completely unpunished, but he’d perhaps be entitled to pick his own penalty.

The magic number for a Dana White exile ought to be no less than 90 days, but he’d probably opt for a cheeky 60 in order to be back in time for UFC 286 in London on March 18.

TBS and Warner Bros. Discovery Divest From All Things Dana

The concept is so ridiculous that typing it doesn’t make it feel the least bit real.

I had originally bagged on the phase “Dana White’s Power Slap” due to how obscenely close it is to the phrase “white power,” but the present situation is far worse. Live sports may be king, but it’s obvious that TBS simply could not risk the backlash that was guaranteed to come if it truly did premiere an inherently violent product directly associated with Dana White on its airwaves at 10 p.m. ET on Wednesday, Jan. 11.

On Jan. 5, sanity prevailed.

This may or may not mean the official, legal end of Power Slap entirely. If it does, we can take our quantum of solace.

If it’s not the end and rather a postponement, TBS needs to take the next step and not just sever all ties with Dana White entirely, but do so loudly and unequivocally. Consider that the ink is barely dry on the Warner Bros. Discovery merger. This is too much toxicity for the company to ignore no matter how much money they’ve invested in it. Disappearing the project from your TV schedule and your website is something, but the effort cannot stop there.

Endeavor or Disney intervenes at the UFC Level

Endeavor has been famously hands-off as it relates to the day-to-day operations of the world’s largest MMA promotion, so don’t hold your breath about Ari Emanuel and Patrick Whitesell stepping in with sanctions. Disney-owned ESPN, however, has an incredible amount of money tied up in UFC broadcast rights through the end of this year, and Mickey Mouse can’t afford to be associated with domestic violence, period.

…Right?

We haven’t heard anything on this front yet; in fact, the coverage of the abhorrent incident itself has felt mild and incomplete at the Worldwide Leader as of this writing, but devotees will recall that ESPN isn’t completely averse to intervention if something emerges that’s sufficiently beyond the pale.

During the earliest stages of COVID-19 lockdowns, White attempted to move the UFC 249 pay-per-view card originally scheduled for Brooklyn’s Barclays Center in April 2020 to the Tachi Palace Casino and Resort, which is located on indigenous land and therefore wouldn’t require an effectively unobtainable sanction from the California State Athletic Commission. When ESPN caught wind of this, they took all necessary measures to ensure no such move took place. Those efforts were successful.

If there were ever a time for Jimmy Pitaro and Co. to call in the cavalry once again regarding its relationship with the Ultimate Fighting Championship, it’s now.

If not them, then who?

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About The Author
Sam Dunn
Sam Dunn
Sam Dunn is the Managing Editor of Boardroom. Before joining the team, he was an editor and multimedia talent for several sports and culture verticals at Minute Media and an editor, reporter, and site manager at SB Nation. A specialist in content strategy, copywriting, and SEO, he has additionally worked as a digital consultant in the corporate services, retail, and tech industries. He cannot be expected to be impartial on any matter regarding the Florida Gators or Atlanta Braves. Follow him on Twitter @RealFakeSamDunn.