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Thursday, May 14, 2009
Week of White continues: 'Taps' for rival promotions

By Jake Rossen

ESPN.com's cross-examination of UFC president Dana White continues this week by picking up on a select sound bite from former employee Tito Ortiz: In White's "E:60" profile, Ortiz alleges his ex-boss was positively ecstatic about the demise of ProElite and that he takes competition burial very seriously -- let's-put-the-UFC-logo-on-a-shovel seriously.

True or not, something clearly motivates White to squelch rivals before they have a chance to breathe. Some choice obituaries for failed promotions:

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International Fight League (2006 to 2008). Ambitious attempt to shoehorn team athletics into the most individualized sport in the world; wasted no time in antagonizing White by hiring away two of his employees and asserting that the UFC sabotaged a TV deal with Fox Sports; for good measure, broadcast a ridiculously hyperbolic prime-time series premiere that brought the sport back to the Stone Age, dwindled rounds down to four minutes to confuse consumers and expected fans to care about tape-delayed events airing at dartboard-random times.

Cause of death: Insufficient funds.

White's eulogy: "I actually watched the IFL once, and it was f---ing painful."

World Fighting Alliance (2001 to 2006). West Coast fight promotion with a nightclub aesthetic; ran three shows before taking a sabbatical and returning under new management, including future EliteXC honcho Jeremy Lappen; spent money as though it grew organically by signing Quinton Jackson, Matt Lindland, Lyoto Machida, and Bas Rutten; briefly flirted with signing Tito Ortiz when Ortiz's UFC contract was up.

Cause of death: Overspending, public apathy, internal turmoil -- Lappen sued the company in 2006 for nonpayment; White sifted through the rubble, purchasing assets that included the contracts of Jackson and Machida.

White's eulogy: Strangely restrained. "Zuffa is committed to giving our fans the best fights between the best fighters in the world. This acquisition helps us continue fulfilling that goal … bringing the WFA fighters into the Zuffa family is the best thing that could happen for the fighters and for the fans."

Oh, wait. Here we go.

"Jeremy Lappen, the three-time loser … you have a law degree. Get a real f---ing job."

Pride (1997 to 2007). Alternately spectacular and brain-dead fight promotion that mixed sport and spectacle in ways never seen before and likely never to be seen again; believed for years to have the superior fighters under roster before exiles looked human in stateside competition; ran two mildly successful shows in Las Vegas, secured Fox Sports' best-of deal; perpetual thorn in UFC's side.

Cause of death: Yakuza (mafia) scandals stripped major TV deal that was significant source of funding; UFC purchased brand and assets in 2007, but never ran a show under the banner.

White's eulogy: "When Mirko Cro Cop [Filipovic]'s deal came up, we went after Mirko aggressively, signed him, and that really started to unravel Pride. He was really tight with them, so once we were able to take him away, all the other fighters started talking to us, too. And that was basically the last nail in the coffin for those guys."