Ahead of media day for the UFC’s first event of 2023, UFC president Dana White appeared at the UFC Apex and addressed the assembled media as he commented further on the New Year’s Eve incident that saw him slap his wife after he had grabbed her and she had slapped him in response.
White was keen to stress that the fighters set for action this weekend at UFC Fight Night 217 should be allowed to focus on their upcoming bouts, rather than have to face questions about the UFC boss.
Here are his opening comments before he took questions from the media:
“I just wanted to come out today and talk to you guys on this media day with the athletes that, you know, the focus is on them. These guys have trained hard and got ready for this fight. What happened on New Year’s Eve is mine, my mistake, not theirs. And obviously, nobody’s more about free speech than me. If one of the fighters wants to come out and voice their opinion on it, whatever it might be, then by all means.
“I’m sure you guys have seen the TMZ video and seen my interview. It was obviously a horrible personal experience. And, you know, there’s no excuses for it. It’s something that I’m gonna have to deal with and live with for the rest of my life. And one thing that I do want to clarify in this thing that I didn’t talk about on TMZ – because I didn’t expect it and I didn’t see it coming – is the people that are defending me. There’s never an excuse. I’m sure you guys have read some of the same stuff that I’ve seen. There’s no defense for this, and people should not be defending me over this thing no matter what. All the criticism that I have received this week is a hundred percent warranted – and will receive in the future.
“And you know me, better than anybody, especially the people that I don’t like start coming after me, nobody fires back more than I do. Whatever anybody has to say – everybody has an opinion on this, and they’re right to have their own opinions. I was very opinionated on this, too, and I still am. It’s crazy that I’m sitting here even having this conversation with you guys. My reason for being here today is I just wanted you guys to focus on (the fighters) and not me.”
White continued as he answered questions from the media in attendance, as he fielded questions about whether he should face potential repercussions for his actions on New Year’s Eve.
“What should the repercussions be?” White responded.
“I take 30 days off? How does that hurt me? I told you guys as we were going through [the COVID-19 pandemic], COVID could last 10 years, and I could sit it out. It’s much like COVID, actually. Me leaving hurts the company. Hurts my employees. Hurts the fighters. Doesn’t hurt me. I could’ve left in 2016 (when Endeavor purchased the UFC from Zuffa). Do I need to reflect? I’ve been against this. I’ve owned this. I’m telling you that I’m wrong.
“Here’s my punishment: I have to walk around for however long I live — and this is how I’m labeled now. My other punishment is that I’m sure a lot of people – whether it be media, fighters, friends, acquaintances – who had respect for me might not have respect for me now. There’s a lot of things I have to deal with the rest of my life that’s way more of a punishment than, what, I take a 30-day or 60-day absence?”
When reminded by one journalist of his comment that, “You don’t bounce back from putting your hands on a woman,” White strongly agreed with that assessment, and said his reputation would likely never recover from the incident.
“You don’t bounce back from this,” he said.
“For the rest of my life, people will label me that. I did it.”