10 Former UFC Champs Who Have Been in Dana's Doghouse
No. 10: Lyoto Machida
Throughout Dana White's many years with the company, he has meticulously worked to make his vision of the UFC a reality.
For the most part, that has been a good thing as the UFC has grown from a barely legal sideshow to a mostly mainstream sports organization with a consistently strong fan offering. Unfortunately, the path to realizing this hasn't been a smooth one.
From sports media titans to politicians to random fans on the internet, White has lashed out at any and all who have doubted, stood in the way of or worked against his dreams. And nobody, not even UFC champions, has been exempt from this treatment.
Whether on a micro level (for example, hurting an event's bottom line by not accepting a short-notice fight) or a macro level (for example, challenging a UFC contract in court), people who haven't marched to White's drum beats have been met with some level of friction, with many of those incidents playing out in the public sphere.
That has made it easy to track which fighters have been on White's "list" over the years and even easier to figure out who is still there today.
This list could have been much, much longer than 10. A staggering number of past and present champions have been run down by the UFC president for a variety of reasons, and each has played out in its own way.
Some of these beefs with champions have played out quietly. Ben Henderson, for example, saw his run as the UFC's top lightweight (which started with him beating one of White's personal favorites) steadily undercut by White, and though Smooth himself remained quiet on any tension with company brass, his trainer did the talking for him.
Meanwhile, it's a safe assumption that ex-champs Sean Sherk and Carlos Newton are on less-than-amicable terms given their involvement in and/or response to the ongoing class-action lawsuit against the UFC despite White's silence on the entire issue.
Not all cases remain an open sore—take BJ Penn, who had a downright ugly relationship with White for a long while (which he detailed in his book) but seems to be on good terms with him in recent years. And naturally, some could still be developing, like potential Bellator signee Matt Hughes and the increasingly tense dealings with Fabricio Werdum.
With that in mind, this list looks at modern feuds played out in public that either don't yet have a definitive conclusion or were so heated they live on in infamy.
Title: Light Heavyweight (2009)
Dana White Quotes
"When you accomplish all the things Anderson Silva has accomplished, we'll pay you Anderson Silva money." —White when Machida asked for more money for a short-notice fight, July 2011.
"Lyoto has been crying for this title shot for a long time, and you know how this stuff goes. When you turn down the opportunity to fight, things start going in another path." —White after Machida turned down a short-notice fight with Jon Jones at UFC 151, September 2012.
Theoretically, the UFC-fighter relationship is a "give and take" affair. The athletes scratch the promoter's back, and the promotion returns the favor. Both sides ultimately gain from that amicability, and everyone heads home happy and, probably, wealthy.
That isn't the reality for most fighters, though. Most fighters never get anything from the company beyond their contracted pay, and the firing of Chuck Liddell and Matt Hughes stands as a cautionary tale about any ideas of being "taken care of" after retirement.
Former light heavyweight Lyoto Machida and his manager, Ed Soares, were well ahead of the curve in discovering this, and when the UFC asked for a solid in the form of a short-notice fight with Rashad Evans, the Brazilian's handlers preferred pay in the form of currency rather than quickly forgotten promises. This was a remarkably bold move at a time when the UFC had no real competition, and it incensed White to the point where he began touting longtime adversary Tito Ortiz (more on him later) as a true blue company man.
Fences were mended, but they fell apart once again the next year when Machida passed on a short-notice fight with Jon Jones (more on him later) at UFC 152. Despite avoiding the firestorm surrounding the ill-fated UFC 151 card, White struck back at Machida for turning down the fight by unceremoniously stripping him of his top contender spot and filling the void with Chael Sonnen.
Things calmed down from there, and it has largely been business as usual ever since. Unfortunately, Machida currently finds himself serving a lengthy suspension over a controversial failed drug test. He will be eligible to come back in October.No. 9: Holly Holm
Title: Women's Bantamweight (2015)
Dana White Quotes
"The girl hasn't fought anybody and they're talking about all this stuff." —White on Holm before signing with the UFC, December 2013.
"You're always going to have people who think they know what they're talking about and they have no idea what they're talking about. ... Holly Holm is a former world champion in boxing and kickboxing." —White making a short-lived 180 after Holm defeated Ronda Rousey, November 2015.
"Listen, Holly made a lot of money, she accomplished great things, she beat Ronda Rousey, but it could have been so much bigger for her. The sad part is I don't [think she even knows]." —White after Holm lost the UFC title, March 2016.
One of the quickest ways for a fighter to end up on Dana White's bad side is for them to have an assertive manager. Many of White's worst moments have stemmed from butting heads with handlers and agents, and he has vilified and publicly berated the advocates of many high-end talents, from Fedor Emelianenko to Nate Diaz to Georges St-Pierre, labeling them "pukes," "dirtbags" and, of course, "dummies" (warning: links contain profanity).
That has, unfortunately, been a running theme throughout the UFC career of boxer-turned-fighter-turned-Ronda-Rousey-slayer Holly Holm. Well before the Preacher's Daughter even put pen to paper with the UFC, White was aggressively tearing into her manager, Lenny Fresquez, labeling him "a lunatic" in an interview with Fox Sports with the likely sticking point being the UFC's reluctance to pay her what she was making outside the company. That ill will, as it so often does, trickled down to Holm with her in-cage credibility being run down as negotiations stalled.
Less than two years later, Holm became one of the biggest names in mixed martial arts when she knocked out Ronda Rousey (another thing White was less than thrilled about), and while that could have been a turning point between the two sides, the friction between White and her manager remained a steady part of the news cycle. That came to a head at UFC 196, when White used her dramatic loss to Miesha Tate as a shortcut to further trash Fresquez in an ESPN Radio interview (a petty move which Sherdog's Jordan Breen analyzed extensively).
While Holm herself has been pure class thus far in her UFC career, White and company have never responded well to hardball negotiations. Business tends to quickly become personal and, unfortunately, fighters are often the ones who pay the price when that happens.
No. 8: Georges St-Pierre
Title: Welterweight (2006, 2008)
Dana White Quotes
"You owe it to the fans, you owe it to that belt, you owe it to this company and you owe it to Johny Hendricks to give him that opportunity to fight again, unless you're going to retire." —White in the middle of a fiery rant over GSP stating he was stepping away from the sport to deal with personal issues, November 2013.
"What I heard is Georges St-Pierre is upset about some of the things that I said at the press conference ... If that's the case, call me man to man, let's talk on the phone. ... Lorenzo reached out to him, Lorenzo still hasn't heard from him yet. If Georges St-Pierre wants to talk like a man, he can pick up the phone and call us or come see us face to face." —White repeatedly questioning St-Pierre's manhood after he discussed the UFC's unwillingness to support additional drug testing, January 2014.
"I don't think he does (fight again). There's a certain mentality you have to have to be a fighter, and Georges St-Pierre hasn't had that mentality for a long time." —White on GSP four months before the two parties agreed to terms on a return, October 2016.
The UFC, like most sports organizations, has a problem with PEDs. Back in 2013, however, it had a considerably bigger problem and was making no serious effort to change it.
As aging fighters' muscles swelled unnaturally, point man Dana White flatly stated "we're regulated by the f--king government" every time the topic came up in his presence, often accompanied by rhetorical questions about the legitimacy of drug testing in stick-and-ball sports. The questions continued to linger, however, and White's snark gave way to social media meltdowns and, in Ben Askren's case, probable blackballing by the company.
That put him in an awkward position when, at the height of the UFC's TRT era, reigning welterweight champion and top pay-per-view draw Georges St-Pierre began pushing the issue by calling for (and offering to bankroll) additional drug testing ahead of his title fight with Johny Hendricks.
The UFC was, at best, less than enthusiastic about the idea. The champ's efforts put more pressure on the UFC to take action and, worse, potentially jeopardized one of the biggest fights of the season.
The extra screening ultimately never went through due to a dispute over which testing agency to use, but rather than simply breathing a sigh of relief, White sent a message by telling Fox Sports (h/t MMA Fighting) that the process made St-Pierre and Hendricks "both look stupid." Worse, he discouraged GSP from continuing to seek VADA testing for his fights by noting, "I just think it's crazy for him to even do this."
That irked GSP in a big way, and he made that known in January 2014. Speaking with a group of reporters shortly after relinquishing the welterweight belt, he tore into the UFC for not supporting him and his push for a cleaner sport and implied the promotion preferred lax drug testing as a means of ensuring that big fights went down without incident.
That seemed to mark a turning point between the brass and the last draw left from the UFC's boom in 2009. Long the company's best ambassador and least problematic attraction, he pointed out the egg on its face and sent it down the path for what was easily the worst year in its history.
It's easy to wonder if this is what led to the contentious (and litigious) contract dispute that dragged on for well over a year. When his new deal is done, it's easy to wonder how quickly the gloves will come off and the third round of public back-and-forth will begin.No. 7: Conor McGregor
Titles: Featherweight (2015), Lightweight (2016)
Dana White Quotes
"If Conor McGregor is truly retired, he would have to take four months off before, it would take you four months to come back, because of USADA." —White after McGregor's tweet on "retiring young," less than two months before Brock Lesnar was granted a USADA exemption for UFC 200, April 2016.
"He has to start [respecting] people's time, man. Yours, theirs, mine, [the other fighters'], David Copperfield's, everybody's." —White on McGregor showing up late to the infamous bottle-throwing press conference, August 2016.
"I've always shown Conor nothing but respect, and if he wants to go down that road with us, let me tell you, it will be an epic fall." —White on McGregor potentially leaving the UFC out of a deal for a boxing match with Floyd Mayweather Jr., January 2017.
If you listen to what Dana White says, everything between the UFC and Conor McGregor is hunky-dory. Always has been! And probably always will be!
If you look at what he does, though? Well...that's not really the case.
As soon as McGregor took the UFC featherweight title from Jose Aldo at UFC 194, White began trying to strong-arm McGregor into relinquishing the title, a notion the Irish karateka completely shot down just moments later at the post-fight press conference. That kicked off months of reports, discussions and denials about a strained relationship between the two parties.
Those whispers of discontent got much, much louder a few months later when McGregor tweeted his retirement from the sport, sparking a months-long public battle with the promotion over what it deemed to be mandatory media appearances ahead of the UFC 200 mega-event.
Ultimately, McGregor came out of the dustup clean, breaking the UFC's pay-per-view buyrate record at UFC 202, according to Dave Meltzer for MMA Fighting, then main-eventing the blockbuster UFC 205 just a few months later. The UFC's McGregor-less UFC 200, meanwhile, ended up being an extended series of disasters, each of which left the UFC looking bad.
Granted, White hasn't been as vocal about his frustrations with McGregor as he has been with most of the fighters on this list, especially as he seems to be working toward a potential meeting with Mayweather for McGregor. That said, expect tensions to rise if the bout falls through or if it does happen and McGregor isn't keen on how much revenue the UFC shaves off the top.No. 6: Tim Sylvia
Title: Heavyweight (2003, 2006)
Dana White Quotes
"But we all have to thank him for getting rid of Tim Sylvia. He'd been stinking out the joint the last couple of years and Fedor did everyone a favor by beating him so easily and getting rid of him." —White discussing Sylvia's loss to Fedor Emelianenko, August 2008.
"Tim Sylvia's not in the UFC for a reason...it's not because we couldn't sign Tim Sylvia." —White discussing Sylvia's losses as an independent fighter following his willful departure from the UFC, July 2009.
"Long story, but yes, Tim is not with Zuffa." —White after nixing a Sylvia vs. Daniel Cormier fight in Strikeforce, July 2012.
White has a bad habit of publicly reveling in foes' misfortune. He hasn't done much of it lately thanks to his infamous "Pride is dead dummy" Twitter post and tombstone photo being part of the ongoing class action lawsuit filed against the UFC, per CagePotato.com, but suffice it to say, the schadenfreude is strong in the UFC president.
Two-time UFC heavyweight champion Tim Sylvia, unfortunately, knows that all too well.
In 2008, the Maine-iac was surprisingly released from the UFC following his UFC 81 loss to Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. It became considerably less surprising, however, when news broke a few months later that he was set to face Fedor Emelianenko at Affliction MMA's debut show, Affliction: Banned. Eventually, the move became a no-brainer when Sylvia's $800,000 in disclosed pay for the fight was revealed, eight times more than what he had brought in from his final bout in the UFC.
While most employers would be hard-pressed to take issue with someone turning in their notice for a $700,000 pay raise, White seemed to take it as a personal insult and publicly jeered Sylvia after his loss.
Some of that can be chalked up as posturing. Affliction: Banned drew a remarkably strong gate (over $2 million, per MMAJunkie.com) and had a star-studded roster that also included the likes of Andrei Arlovski, Vitor Belfort, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira and Josh Barnett. White had at least some justification in taking shots at the organization, albeit through one of its main eventers.
Unfortunately, four years later, it became obvious that this wasn't just an extension of an interpromotional rivalry. Sylvia was seemingly barred from the Octagon permanently for his transgression, and that extended to the UFC's sister promotion, Strikeforce, as White functionally stated when he vetoed Sylvia returning to the Zuffa umbrella for a fight with Daniel Cormier in 2012 despite being on a solid 7-1 run on the independent circuit at the time.
White, somehow, said it was nothing personal with Sylvia (while still taking credit for pulling the rug out from under him) and cited his relatively soft competition as the reason why he wasn't brought back into the fold. The fact that Cormier would ultimately face one-and-done light heavyweight Dion Staring suggested otherwise, and Sylvia himself did much more than "suggest" that White was the sole reason for his absence years later in an appearance on Chael Sonnen's podcast (h/t MMA Fighting).No. 5: Tito Ortiz
Title: Light Heavyweight (2000)
Dana White Quotes
"I put up with him when he was a good fighter. He's not anymore. He's done. I'm no longer in the Tito Ortiz business." —White, a fight promoter, ahead of a Tito Ortiz fight he was promoting, May 2008.
"hey jenna SHUT THE F--K UP and mind ur biz! @titoortiz put her on a f--kin leash!!!" —White to Ortiz's significant other at the time, Jenna Jameson, April 2011.
"The dumbest human being to ever be involved in the sport. The most irrelevant fighter on the f--king planet." —White after Ortiz signed with Bellator MMA, September 2013.
For years, the biggest rivalry in the UFC wasn't between fighters. It was between top light heavyweight Tito Ortiz and UFC President Dana White.
At a time where fighters rarely dared to step out of line, Ortiz was willing to butt heads with UFC brass in the most public ways. His "Dana is my bitch" shirt and the constant discussion of the two men legitimately coming to blows (both in licensed and unlicensed fashion) became bigger parts of the news cycle than Ortiz's actual fights and ultimately propelled him to new heights even as his in-cage prowess faltered.
How much of that was showmanship on Ortiz's part is up for debate, as the Huntington Beach Bad Boy did quite the about-face after re-signing with the UFC. White, however, seemed to take all of this personally, and when Ortiz ended a brief retirement to sign with Bellator MMA, he went from MMA legend to "the most irrelevant fighter on the f--king planet," "liar" and "slave to stupidity."
Tensions have soothed in recent months, and Ortiz has recently stated he has regrets about how things have panned out between the two. Unfortunately, precedent suggests they'll be back at it before long.No. 4: Ken Shamrock
Title: Superfight (1995)
Dana White Quotes
"I actually always liked Ken and Ken and I always got along well. Where he's coming up with this crazy (expletive)...he must be broke again. I've never said anything negative about Ken." —White on Shamrock during their 2007 legal battle, November 2007.
"I have absolutely zero respect for Ken Shamrock. I think Ken Shamrock is a horrible [expletive] human being." —White following Shamrock's appearance in an ESPN special on fighter pay, January 2012.
"Ken owes me $175,000, and I'm coming for it, Ken. I'm coming for the f--king money, you piece of s--t. You should have stayed wherever you were, hidden under the f--king porch somewhere." —White on Shamrock following a Twitter beef with several former stars, November 2013.
Ken Shamrock is one of the most important fighters in UFC history, standing as one of the promotion's top stars in both its formative days in the 1990s and the early days of the Zuffa era from 2002 to 2005. He headlined some of the biggest pay-per-view events of those eras, and it wouldn't be especially bold to say that without Shamrock, the UFC wouldn't exist today.
That makes it both sad and infuriating that White spent years gleefully discussing Shamrock's allegedly dire financial straits.
The beef initially stemmed from Shamrock working with a UFC rival, in this case, the International Fight League. While Shamrock never actually competed for them, he appeared with the organization as the coach of the Nevada Lions, a move which Shamrock cited as the tipping point in his relationship with White in a 2007 MMAJunkie interview. A lawsuit followed and generated animosity that festered for years.
In 2012, the bad blood boiled over as ESPN released a scathing expose on UFC fighter pay. Shamrock was prominently featured in the story, and while UFC owner Lorenzo Fertitta responded by putting out unaired footage of him criticizing ESPN, White zeroed in on Shamrock, unleashing one of the bitterest verbal tirades of his career. The attacks continued for years after, with White continually focusing on Shamrock's finances.
White suddenly stated in 2014 that they had buried the hatchet, but it's unclear if that ceasefire endured Shamrock headlining two of the biggest events in Bellator history.No. 3: Jon Jones
Title: Light Heavyweight (2011)
Dana White Quotes
"Sure, Jon Jones is rich what does he care if he cancels the fight? But 20 other fighters on the card added up to almost a half a million dollars in purse money that Jones and Greg Jackson's decision stole from them." —White on Jones after the organization cancelled UFC 151, August 2012.
"Jon, I love you, you're not a matchmaker. Fight your fight, he'll fight his fight, and don't worry about it. When you talk like that it makes it sound like you're worried about it." —White on Jones' discussion on the lack of (marketable) challengers at 205 pounds, November 2013.
"Jon Jones has blown it in every way, shape and form a guy with that much talent can blow it. Greatest talent ever and the biggest screw-up ever." —White after stripping Jones of the interim light heavyweight title, November 2016.
To some degree, Dana White has valid reason to hate Jon Jones. The former light heavyweight champion was, for a short time, the UFC's biggest star, but a series of personal issues have seen him pulled from two pay-per-view main events and ultimately resulted in him missing extended lengths of time, hurting both his standing among fans and the company's bottom line.
Still, it would be disingenuous to say that White's animosity towards Jones is strictly of his own doing.
Back in 2012, the UFC was still struggling with its transition away from longtime stars like Chuck Liddell, Tito Ortiz and Randy Couture and was forced to work without top draws Georges St-Pierre or Brock Lesnar. Worse, it was struggling to create compelling cards due to a slate of injuries to marketable talents, a burden UFC 151 was struggling with.
While the main event was a strong one, pitting the legend-killer Jon Jones against a hotter-than-ever Dan Henderson, there was very, very little intrigue on the card past that. And when Dan Henderson pulled out of the fight due to a knee injury and Jones turned down last-minute replacement opponent Chael Sonnen? Well, not even the UFC was going to pretend that the card was worth fans' money.
The event was cancelled and while the fault lied with the UFC for curating a shallow card and not properly incentivizing Jones to take a risky fight, Jones took the brunt of the blame as White railed against him in the media. That seemingly soured their relationship in a permanent way and greenlit White to try to snipe at Jones at every opportunity, be it in big ways or small.
Eventually Jones would self-destruct, with his 2015 hit-and-run case kicking off a series of issues that turned him into a fixture of the news cycle for the next year. Still, that was just more ammunition for White to work with in his war against, arguably, the sport's top pound-for-pound fighter.No. 2: Frank Shamrock
Title: Light Heavyweight (1997)
Dana White Quotes
"Frank Shamrock is an irrelevant jackass...you're a two-faced, lying chump. That's what you are, Frank Shamrock." —White responding to a Shamrock interview on MMA in New York, October 2010.
"The guy is a clown. I just have no respect for Frank Shamrock." —White on Shamrock ahead of his appearance on Bellator's Fight Master series, February 2013.
"At the end of the day, Frank Shamrock and I never really had a relationship, whereas Ken and I did. Frank and I never had a relationship. He's too far off the reservation." —White on Shamrock after making amends with Ken Shamrock, May 2014.
Most of the fighters on this list are on bad terms with Dana White due to business dealings turned personal. Frank Shamrock is one of the few exceptions to that.
The UFC's top star from 1997 until his short-lived retirement in 1999, Shamrock was at the start of a lengthy hiatus when White and the Fertitta brothers took over the UFC in 2001. While he initially worked with the trio in an advisory role, he steadily became persona non grata as he teamed with nearly every one of its biggest rivals over the years in any number of capacities.
Granted, some of this was manufactured by Shamrock himself. The former light heavyweight champion has never been delicate while discussing White, and some of his call-outs conveniently lined up with promoting new projects he was attached to.
White, however, has taken these jabs to heart and countered Shamrock in the only place he could; his legacy.
The most famous example of this is Shamrock's continued absence from the UFC Hall of Fame. Despite the fact that he was arguably the best all-around competitor under the UFC umbrella in the 1990s, White has continually insisted Shamrock isn't even worthy of consideration. Past that, White also labeled him "irrelevant" when speaking to Sirius XM (h/t Fight Cove and MMA Mania) in an effort to run down Shamrock and whoever he happens to be working for at the time.
While many of the retired fighters on this list eventually came to an understanding with White, no matter how brief, neither man seems all that interested in burying the hatchet here.
No. 1: Randy Couture
Titles: Heavyweight (1997, 2000, 2007), Light Heavyweight (2003, 2004)
Dana White Quotes
"He's a beautiful person and we're always going to feel like Randy is part of our family," —October 2007
"Most [MMA fighters] went to college. They're sharp. But when the maggots and clingons start whispering s--t into their ears about how they should be getting this or getting that, they are very easy to mislead." —October 2008
"The only time Randy Couture is a man is when he sets foot in the cage. As soon as his big toe steps out of that cage, he's the furthest thing from it." —February 2013
Randy Couture is a very smart man. Whenever opportunity has knocked, he's been quick to open the door and follow it, from Las Vegas to Hollywood to Tokyo. That has made him one of MMA's most recognizable figures...and also one of Dana White's most hated.
In 2007, Couture suddenly retired from MMA as the UFC heavyweight champion in a power play to set up a money fight with the top-ranked Fedor Emelianenko. That sparked a series of public disputes (and some lawsuits) as Couture flirted with a number of other promotions, including M-1 and the IFL.
White, believe it or not, was uncharacteristically friendly during all this, going so far as to say Couture is "a beautiful person" and "part of our family." The two sides reconciled a year later, with Couture returning to the Octagon in 2008 for a fight with Brock Lesnar, and things remained amicable until 2011, when he formally retired from competition after UFC 129.
When the well dried and checks were deposited, however, the UFC-Couture bridge was still doused with petrol. And when The Natural joined up with Spike TV to be an on-air personality for Bellator MMA's The Ultimate Fighter spin-off Fight Master? Well, that was enough of a spark to leave it in ashes, with White delivering the vilest rant of his career and going so far as to bar one of the most important fighters in UFC history from cornering his own son's UFC fights (link contains profanity).
It's a sad tale and, unfortunately, one that shows how spiteful White can be. No matter how much money a fighter makes for him, they're not safe.