As part of International Fight Week the UFC hosted The Art of Fighting, an exhibit featuring the works of Octagon girl Brittney Palmer, Justin Bua and more. Proceeds from the event will go to local Las Vegas charities such as The Boys and Girls Club of Southern Nevada and Three Square Food Bank. UFC President Dana White attended the silent auction and spoke with MMA Fight Corner on some of the hot topics and all things International Fight Week.
White discussed Chael Sonnen’s release from his broadcasting contract and failed drug tests, why the TUF Latin America and TUF 20 seasons have exceeded his expectations, and why it took so long to induct Pat Miletich into the UFC Hall of Fame.
With The Ultimate Fighter 19 nearly wrapped up, White has openly voiced his disdain for the competitors lack of motivation. He’s viewed it as one of the worst seasons to date.
On the other hand, he promises that TUF Latin America’s season will outshine TUF 19. Additionally, he found the vigor and desire each man had to there refreshing.
“When I first walked in the first day of TUF Mexico, and all the fighters are there, I could see it in their eyes. I knew, I said, ‘This going to be the best season ever’. I said it to ’em. I knew it. You felt it. TUF 19, I did not get that feeling – in the beginning, middle or end,” White stated.
Meanwhile, TUF 20 will start filming soon and includes former Invicta FC strawweights Alex Chambers, Rose Namajunas, Bec Hyatt, Joanne Calderwood, Tecia Torres, Carla Esparza, Felice Herrig, and Emily Peters-Kagan. The other cast members will be revealed on Thursday.
On TUF 20, the women will vie to become the inaugural UFC strawweight champion in the first season to ever feature an all-female cast. With the caliber of athletes coming in, White expects thinks the hype is bigger that of the first season.
“These are the top ten best in the world and some other girls that we picked up along the way,” said White. “And all these girls, when we bought that division from Invicta, right, all these girls were paid money. You know, because we knew they weren’t going to fight so they all got paid. And every one of these girls used the money that they were paid to get nutrionists, trainers and train the right way. Every one of these girls are coming in in sick shape. They’re all ready to fight and win. I mean, this season of The Ultimate Fighter is why I love this s**t.”
This week the UFC will put on back-to-back fight cards. First, UFC 175 on Saturday which features two title fights. While the event boasts two championship bouts in the main and co-main event, one bout that was planned for the card was scratched.
During UFC 173’s fight week in May, Chael Sonnen and Wanderlei Silva attended a press conference to promote UFC 175 and the bout between them is off. Following that event, Sonnen was drug tested twice and failed both of them. After the results of the first test were revealed, Sonnen retired. Once results were announced from the most recent one, the UFC and FOX terminated Sonnen’s broadcasting contract.
“It breaks my heart,” White lamented. “I care about Chael very much. Me and Chael have had a very good relationship behind the scenes. He’s a great guy. And he had four banned substances in his body.”
“The relationship I have with him, when he took the test, I would have expected him to come to me and say, ‘Hey listen, I’ve got some bad news for you.’ You know? It sucks.”
But would there be room for second chances?
“I care about the guy very much. It all depends on how he handles it. America’s a very forgiving place for guys who do the right thing. And you see what happens with guys who dig their heels in and try to battle, it doesn’t work out well for them.”
At the TUF 19 Finale on Sunday, July 6, Frankie Edgar and B.J. Penn meet for a third time in the main event. Should Penn lose this weekend, White thinks it could be time for him to retire.
“He’s got a beautiful wife. He’s got beautiful children. He’s got a great house. He’s got money. He’s got a great family,” White said. “If he can go on a tear starting this weekend, well then B.J’s back. But, if not – if you’re a fan, this is live and free on FOX Sports 1 this weekend – then I look at it like watching Michael Jordan play basketball for the last time.”
Lastly, White discussed finally bringing in former champion, Pat Miletich, to the UFC Hall of Fame. Despite any tension the two had in the past, White admitted it was time “The Croation Sensation” was inducted.
After Miletich lost his title to Carlos Newton at UFC 31, he was not awarded an immediate rematch. Instead, Newton would next fight Matt Hughes, who came up under Pat’s tutelage at Miletich Fighting Systems. At UFC 34, Hughes slammed Newton to the canvas, knocking him out to become the new welterweight champion.
Next it was believed Miletich would coach The Ultimate Fighter season 3 opposite Newton to set up the rematch. But, that season ended up being coached by Tito Ortiz and Ken Shamrock. In 2002, Miletich left the UFC to coach the IFL’s Silverbacks.
“Pat’s been sideways with us for awhile and its 100 percent my fault. I picked him and [Carlos Newton] to be the coaches of a season of The Ultimate Fighter and then I switched it. And I didn’t handle it the right way. I’ve apologized to him many times and I respect Pat Miletich a lot. I’ve fully owned up to…hurting the relationship and he deserves to be inducted and I’m excited to do it.”
Miletich, 48, will be inducted to the UFC Hall of Fame on Sunday, July 6 at the UFC Fan Expo at 11:30 a.m. PT on he main stage.
Listen to the full interview here: