White on Fedor: ‘We tried everything’

By Joe Hall Jul 31, 2009
On the morning of negotiations with M-1 Global and Fedor Emelianenko, Dana White didn’t just wake with a good feeling. The UFC president says he knew he was going to sign the top-ranked heavyweight in the world.

“This is going to happen,” White said he told UFC co-owner Lorenzo Fertitta. “It’s going to happen today. We’re going to make this thing happen.”

Days later, however, Emelianenko is back in Russia and still outside the UFC. White was adamant during a media conference call Friday that the fault belongs to M-1 Global.

“I was f---ing miserable, miserable … because we couldn’t make this deal,” White said. “I was so confident we were going to get this done because we were willing to do it. We were willing to make a deal at almost any cost.”

The “almost” involves co-promoting. White said he won’t do a deal that includes co-promotion, and M-1 Global President Vadim Finkelstein has said he won’t do one that excludes it.

“We built this business, this entire freaking industry,” White said. “How are they going to come in and help us co-promote? It’s basically them coming and saying, ‘We’ve got this guy and some people say he might be the best heavyweight in the world. So for that, we want half your business.’ Yeah, OK. That sh-t probably works in Russia. Not here.”

White added that the Fertittas’ gaming license would hinder co-promoting with M-1.

“People from other countries just don’t walk in and jump in business with the Fertitta brothers,” he said. “There has to be full background checks and all kinds of crazy sh-t. It doesn’t work that way. It’s impossible; it will never happen.”

Other than co-promotion, White said he had relented on previous sticking points such as allowing Emelianenko to compete in sambo tournaments. He characterized himself as “the nicest Dana ever” during negotiations and described his offer to Emelianenko as “amazing.” No figures were discussed, but White guaranteed the Russian would not be offered a better deal.

“He got offered a f---ing assload of money,” White said. “A ton of money, everything he wanted. He can go fight in sambo every f---ing Thursday night if he wants to. He can do everything he wanted to. We showed them nothing but respect.”

White sounded equal parts angry and exasperated Friday. He had said he didn’t want to discuss Emelianenko but then did numerous times over the hour-long call.

“It’s insanity to turn down a deal like this,” White said. “To turn down a deal like this, you don’t care about proving you’re the best in the world. You don’t want to fight the best in the world. You don’t care about money. How do you deal with something like that?”

Several times White reiterated that the door to a deal was still open, then he kind of closed it by saying he was over the deal and didn’t want to discuss Emelianenko anymore, then he opened it again by saying M-1 could call him right then and they could reach an agreement if they’d budge on co-promoting.

By the call’s end White was back to questioning Emelianenko’s status as the best in the world and wondering why the media cares so much about a heavyweight who will not challenge himself in the sport’s top promotion.

In that way, the UFC wagons have circled. Might as well. M-1’s are going round and round, too, and against everything Dana White was certain of when he woke one morning this week, Fedor Emelianenko is still not in the UFC.
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