Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll have heard or seen UFC president Dana White striking his wife following a drunken altercation. Is it all that surprising that White did this? Realistically, no it isn’t. He isn’t a man that is ever told ‘no’, he does whatever he wants and also has a history of turning a blind eye to all things domestic abuse.
We take a look at White’s history of employing domestic abusers, the issue with it within combat sports, specifically MMA and why these people need to be punished and banished from the sport.
“You never bounce back from putting your hands on a woman”
These are not only logical words but words from White himself. Back in 2014, White commented on NFL star, Ray Rice after it was revealed he abused his wife. White, therefore needs to live by his own words, he can’t simply ‘bounce back’ from this.
Despite White apologising for his actions in an interview with TMZ, the entire situation seems to have been brushed under the carpet. Neither the UFC, Endeavour nor none of those involved with White have passed comment on the matter.
White’s ‘PowerSlap’ promotion has a horrible irony attached to it now. Fans weren’t keen on the ‘sport’ before this, however, now it’s leaving an awful taste in people’s mouths. TBS has delayed the programming of the PowerSlap League, which is a step in the right direction. Despite this, the UFC is still promoting the league and doing so heavily. During 2023 alone, there have been three Instagram posts through the UFC. They’re clearly still promoting it.
White and the UFC Giving Domestic Abusers Work
Should we really be surprised that Dana White has been caught domestically abusing his wife of 26 years? He has a troubled history with fellow domestic abusers. The UFC itself also has an extremely troubled history of employing domestic abusers or continuing to give them fights.
Jon Jones was arrested for domestic abuse in 2021 against his then fiance, Jessie Moses. Despite originally describing the abuse that Jones inflicted on her, the charges were dropped by Moses. Jones is still under contract by the UFC and White is constantly looking to book Jones in a fight following a move up to heavyweight.
The Las Vegas Metro Police Department has released the mugshot of Jon Jones from his Friday morning arrest. pic.twitter.com/WlLXOJIL3u
— Aaron Bronsteter (@aaronbronsteter) September 28, 2021
Former UFC fighter, Mike Perry was also given multiple fights after his ex-wife, Danielle Nickerson came out and accused Perry of domestic abuse on multiple occasions. Speaking to MMAJunkie, Nickerson detailed the worst of the abuse following a night out together. Even then, Nickerson knew what the deal was. She openly said: “I know that my words are not going to have an impact on his career”, proving just how big an issue this is. She went on to say: “This is not (something UFC president Dana White will see) and be like, ‘He’s cut.’ There’s no way. I don’t have that sort of impact“.
Thiago Silva is another example of a UFC fighter who has been caught up in domestic abuse allegations. He threatened his then wife at a gym where she was training with a gun before fleeing the scene and having a stand-off with a SWAT team. Although his contract was terminated, he was re-signed to the promotion. The promotion consequently released him following further evidence, however, the fact remains, they were willing to re-sign a talent, despite his past.
It was revealed before his fight on UFC on FOX 5 that active UFC fighter, Abel Trujillo had twice pled guilty to domestic assault charges and in both cases, the victim was the mother of his child. Despite this, Trujillo remained on the card and in the promotion for a further 10 fights.
Travis Browne was removed from the 2015 international fight week events after his now-former wife accused him of domestic abuse. Jenna Webb was the woman accusing Browne of the offences and despite her still considering pressing charges, the UFC continued to give Hapa work for a further five fights spanning two years.
Flyweight contender, Priscila Cachoeira has also been accused of domestic abuse against a former girlfriend. Despite denying any wrongdoing, her ex-girlfriend was granted a restraining order, so there has to be some evidence of abuse. Cachoeira is still employed by the UFC, has been given fights and is scheduled to compete again soon.
These examples clearly show that there is a precedent set for UFC fighters who have been found guilty of domestic abuse. Depending on your standing in the sport, such as Jon Jones being a big ticket seller and PPV star, the UFC are willing to turn a blind eye to the issue.
Dana White’s situation is similar, little has been done, little will be done and there isn’t a huge call from ‘the powers that be’ to do anything either. Disappointing.
It isn’t all bad, however. The UFC has reacted to domestic abusers by terminating their contracts on a number of occasions.
A stain on the Sport
Luis Pena, a former Ultimate Fighter veteran, was arrested for domestic battery after he allegedly struck and bit his girlfriend. In this situation, the UFC acted appropriately. They cut Pena from the organisation which appeared to be just in time, as he was arrested a month later again. Pena was arrested by Florida police officers, facing four misdemeanour charges including battery, criminal mischief, battery causing bodily harm, and touching or striking battery or domestic violence.
Michael Graves was arrested for domestic battery and was consequently released by the UFC.
Let’s not ignore the likes of Dana White’s good friend, Chuck Liddell, who was arrested for domestic abuse in 2021 and is a former UFC champion. Former UFC fighter, ‘War Machine’, Jonathan Koppenhaver launched a brutal attack on his ex-girlfriend, adult performer, Christy Mack in 2014. The beating was so bad that it left Mack unable to walk for a number of days afterwards as well as suffering multiple broken bones. Luckily, Koppenhaver was arrested, charged and is serving time on a life sentence.
Just this week, former UFC veteran, Phil Baroni was arrested under suspicion of murdering his girlfriend. As of yet, an outcome hasn’t come to light.
Greg Hardy and the UFC being Tone Deaf
Former NFL star, Greg Hardy was given an opportunity through Dana White’s Contender Series. Hardy is a domestic abuser who has been found guilty before he was given an opportunity in the UFC. Hardy should never have been given the chance in the UFC, however, White and the UFC appeared to not have considered his past.
Not only this, but it was his debut that caused further controversy. Everyone knew Hardy was an abuser, including those at the UFC as did White. He debuted on the UFC’s first ESPN+ card, UFC on ESPN+ 1. They gave the guy a huge platform. Not only this, but they also put him on the same card as Rachel Ostovich. Ostovich, who competed as a flyweight and is a victim of domestic abuse had her orbital bone broken after an altercation with her then-husband a few years prior to UFC on ESPN +1. It’s tone-deaf by the UFC, to put a known, convicted domestic abuser on the same card as a domestic abuse victim.
UFC Fighters Reaction
There have been two key UFC fighters who have passed comment on the Dana White situation, Derek Bruson and Sean O’Malley.
Was Dana White wrong , “YES” . Men shouldn’t hit women. Do I feel this is a reflection of who Dana White is , NO. Dana has been a component of second chances . I think speaking up against the topic and maybe sit out two events is fair! He admitted he was wrong !
— Derek Brunson (@DerekBrunson) January 3, 2023
Despite this, he previously wore a shirt which stated ‘I beat up domestic abusers’. Brunson clearly dropped his views and his beliefs when it comes to his boss…
O’Malley also spoke on his podcast stating that White’s wife deserved to be slapped back. As we know now, Anna White slapped Dana first, before he reacted and slapped her back.
Suga said, “I feel bad for Dana. His wife slapped him. That is rude. And it deserves a slapping back.”
Regardless of your opinion on the matter, it’s domestic abuse. Plain and simple.
Will anything be done?
Will anything be done? Unfortunately not. Dana White will continue to be the leading man in the UFC even after his recognition of the abuse and his apology. The UFC will continue to turn a blind eye to domestic abusers, especially if they will turn into or are currently ticket sellers. They will fail to comment on the matter in the wider public eye.
No members of the MMA media will be allowed to ask White questions on the matter at press conferences and they won’t go against the status quo through fear of having their credentials taken away from them.
There’s clearly an issue within MMA with regards to domestic abuse.
The PowerSlap League will still be pushed through the UFC model and fans will still tune in and all of this, unfortunately, be forgotten about in the near future.