A 20-minute interview with UFC president Dana White (bonus: watch this) usually yields roughly 20 news items. This one? No exception.
Officially, can you say the winner of Rich Franklin/Dan Henderson fight be coaching opposite Michael Bisping on the next Ultimate Fighter?
WHITE: Yes, that fight will determine the other coach. I'm actually flying out tomorrow (Thursday) to start the taping of the show. For the first two episodes, we're going to have Bisping and both Henderson and Franklin there. Then we'll go back to taping the show with the winner of the fight.
When Bisping fights the winner of Henderson/Franklin, will it be at 205 pounds or 185?
Definitely at Bisping's weight, 185.
What's the latest on getting MMA sanctioned in New York state?
I feel good about it. I'm not hoping it will happen, I'm planning on it happening. I'm very confident but I don't want to say too much. It's going to happen, we just have to deal with all the political bulls—. I'm very confident.
If/when the sport is sanctioned in New York, how long before you'd be ready to have an event? If it's approved in, say, May, could you turn around and put on an event a month later?
Yes, we've put together cards in that short a time span before. But I have a deal in place to have a fight at Madison Square Garden, and I want to do that one right. You have to set up all the fights, let guys train for a fight…I wouldn't want to rush that one.
What are the ramifications of a Georges St.-Pierre win against BJ Penn? And what if Penn wins?
I'm not worried about that; I'm worried about the fight itself. I think it's going to be the biggest fight we've ever done. The last Lesnar pay-per-view did really well, and then our Dec. 27 show crushed it.
When you say it crushed it, are we talking a million buys for Griffin/Evans?
I don't want to get into numbers too much—that's our policy. But it crushed it. I'll say this: The Christmas show crushed the Lesnar fight by 150,000-175,000 buys.
Were you surprised by that?
No, I wasn't surprised; I was happy. I was f'ing thrilled. We lowballed our preflight estimates on that card and were blown away. I think what happened was two things. One, it was a kick-ass card. Two, I think we were a little off because of the holidays. I guess everybody thought, you're burnt out by everything, what do you want to do? You want to get back together with your buddies and watch some fights. We were crapping our pants when the calendar came up when we saw the last Saturday of the year fell two days after Christmas. Then the economy went down. We didn't know exactly what to expect. But we were surprised by how well it did.
Will Rashad Evans fight the winner of Lyoto Machida/Thiago Silva for his first title defense?
No, I think it's going to be against Rampage (Jackson).
But Rampage seemed pretty intent on getting a rematch with Forrest Griffin first?
Rampage changed his tune a few days after he said that. He said, 'Screw that, I want to fight for the title.'
So what will you do with Forrest Griffin now?
I don't know. The light heavyweight division right now is a huge puzzle, and we have to wait to find out what else happens.
Could you do Forrest Griffin against Chuck Liddell? Or does Liddell need another win to get back in the title mix?
We could do Forrest/Chuck. That's a fight people would want to see. But yeah, Chuck probably needs to win one. Right now, we're planning on having Chuck fight in April.
If it's not against Griffin, who else would you want to put Chuck in with?
It'll be either Shogun Rua, if he wins, or maybe Wanderlei Silva. Wanderlei is still under medical suspension, so we'll have to see what happens with that.
What are your plans for UFC 100? Are you planning something huge?
How do you make a bigger card than the one we just had at Christmas time? It's a big deal, for sure, but we're going a million miles per hour right now. We have a lot of events before that. I haven't thought about it as much as people think I have.
What are your thoughts on the Andrei Arlovski/Fedor Emelianenko fight coming up on Jan. 24?
I'd like to see Andrei win. He's my guy, so I obviously want to see him beat Fedor.
You haven't been shy about bashing Fedor. But MMA fans have objected because he's clearly proven to be one of the all-time great heavyweight fighters.
My only beef with Fedor is that he's not fighting consistently right now, against top competition. I can't call someone the best in the world unless he's fighting against the best, and he's fighting three times a year, minimum. I can't call somebody like Fedor the best in the world, because he hasn't been doing that.
You've been pretty outspoken that Affliction won't be around for much longer. Do you still feel that way?
I don't think they'll make it past the Jan. 24 show. If they manage to put together another pay-per-view after that, I'll be amazed. They couldn't sell tickets or PPVs before this economic situation. How are they going to last past this next show?
If Affliction does indeed go under, what's your next move with Fedor?
I'd sign Fedor in a heartbeat, if we could work out his contract situation with Affliction after they go under. I've been trying to sign Fedor for a long, long time. The problem has always been his management. I've still never even met Fedor himself.
But you have to admit, what Fedor has accomplished is pretty astounding.
Yes, he's had a great career. He just hasn't done it lately. If he wants to fight the best in the world and prove how great he is, I am certainly willing to listen and maybe sign him.
Do you still envision a Matt Hughes/Matt Serra fight?
Yes, it will happen some time this spring or summer. I have no idea how Hughes' health situation will play out. But if he's healthy, we'll have that fight.