The combat sports world has never been short on fireworks. Whether physical or verbal, conflict is the lifeblood that keeps fans engaged and, most importantly, the revenue rolling in. On the whole, these bitter feuds are waged between the two competitors preparing to square off for 3, 5 or 12 rounds. The genesis for no shortage of trash talk and altercations, the high-pressure nature of the fight game has a way of escalating what should be a sporting contest into a deeply personal vendetta.
On the other hand, public disputes between rival promoters were uncommon. Where volatile issues between the vilified Don King and Hall-Of-Famer Dan Duva’s Main Events Promotions were only common knowledge to those in the industry, today’s combat sports moguls make their feelings known with unbridled fashion. Unbound by the old-fashioned decorum that they once conducted themselves with, there’s now an acceptance of boxing tycoons Eddie Hearn and David Higgins taking sly potshots at one another or Bellator’s Scott Coker mercilessly ribbing fellow MMA promotions when they experience a mishap.
If anyone has spearheaded this shift, it’s the UFC’s Dana White. Brash, unapologetic and prone to an expletive or two, the long-tenured UFC President has never felt the need to comport himself as anything other than a straight-talking Bostonian who rose from low-level boxing trainer to the king of MMA. As the president of the organization during the Fertita Brothers-owned Zuffa era, Dana would unashamedly critique everyone from boxing stalwarts such as Bob Arum that sought to invalidate the UFC, to calling for investigations into rival MMA organization Elite XC’s alleged malpractice, infamously declaring their use of stand-ups in fights to be “fucking illegal. “
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But following Endeavor’s purchase of the company, Dana’s old foes have played second fiddle to a new adversary. Once friends that had been pictured together on several occasions, Dana White and Golden Boy Promotions’ Oscar De La Hoya are embroiled in a brutal bout of mudslinging that refuses to subside. Even when soaking in the exorbitant success of UFC 244 at Madison Square Garden, Dana White took time out from discussing what transpired on his card to decry his fellow promoter. When fielding a question about the decision for the De La Hoya-promoted Canelo Vs Kovalev fight waiting until Dana’s main event of Nate Diaz Vs Jorge Masvidal concluded, White was all too happy to tear into his foe: “How much more can I prove myself that this guy is an asshole and just a complete f*ck-up? I f*cking hate Oscar De La Hoya. This guy is a scumbag and he’s a snake and I told him not to go on this night… He’s really f*ckin’ weird too, just to top it off.”
Met with the customary laughter from the media, his latest tirade also touched on the catalyst for where their relationship went south in the first place. “I used to help this guy and promote his fights. I used to go on social media and say ‘I’m watching the fight’ or whatever,” explained White. “Then, we do Mayweather-McGregor and he tells people not to watch? Who does that?” Hyperbolic as they may seem on paper, that’s no embellishment from Dana. In spite of the friendship they’d maintained, Oscar De La Hoya felt he could not sit idly by while Dana—under the guise of McGregor Sports and the as-yet unlaunched Zuffa Boxing– promoted a “joke of a fight” that would irreparably damage to the sport.
In a lengthy open letter, the multiple-time lightweight champion and Olympic gold medallist pleaded with fans to boycott the contest. “Floyd’s and Conor’s motivation is clear. It’s money. It’s a win-win for them. It’s a lose-lose for us,” wrote De La Hoya. “We’ll be $100 lighter and we will have squandered another opportunity to bring boxing back to its rightful place as the sport of kings.” After that, any semblance of professional courtesy between the two was put aside, with Dana replying to claim that while they had maintained a good relationship in the past, he now viewed him as “completely insecure” and “two-faced.”
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Once the dust of McGregor’s defeat to Mayweather had settled and all of the figures were tallied, it seemed as though that could’ve been the end of any verbal skirmish. But then Oscar would throw gasoline on the narrative that he was only decrying the fight as it wasn’t under his banner when he offered to come out of retirement to compete against the “Notorious” box office draw himself. “I’ve been secretly training”, he told CBS Sports. “I’m faster than ever and stronger than ever. I know I can take out Conor McGregor in two rounds. I’ll come back for that fight”
Absurd as it may seem that the 44-year-old would step back between the ropes, the proposition was enough to get fans speculating on what could transpire. However, it wasn’t the prospect of Goldenboy and the Crumlin native duking it out that caused Dana’s blood pressure to soar to unforeseen levels. In August of 2018, De La Hoya’s promotional vehicle announced their first dalliance with the world of mixed martial arts. Set to be held at The Forum in Inglewood, CA, the news was unanticipated but not necessarily scandalous. At least until its marquee attraction was unveiled. 8 years prior, Dana White had drawn a line in the sand with regards to the fighting career of Chuck “The Iceman” Liddell.” After expressing his concerns before his fight against Rich Franklin at UFC 115, Liddell falling victim to a third consecutive knockout led Dana to guarantee that his friend had fought his last round in the UFC.
Flash-forward to 2018 and De La Hoya had booked Chuck to fight against his old nemesis, “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” Tito Ortiz for a third time. After Chuck sustained yet another vicious KO in round one, White was apoplectic with rage and it was all heading in one direction. “I heard last week the cokehead ‘Oscar De La Weirdo’ is talking shit that I don’t have any place to tell guys when to retire. First of all, it’s called ‘friendship. I’ve been friends with Chuck Liddell for 20 years and the reality is that he retired when he should have retired. Liddell’s almost 50 years old and has no business fighting anymore. The fact that the state of California even let that fight happen is disgusting.”
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Unhappy that Dana had dredged up his very real substance abuse issues, De La Hoya fired back and cast aspersions about the UFC’s health. “Dana is so small and threatened by our success with [streaming service] DAZN and in MMA that he is bringing up news from a decade ago to try to stay relevant”, Oscar informed TMZ Sports. “Boxing has entirely rejected him. And, MMA fighters are now realizing they don’t have to risk their lives just so he can get rich. Golden Boy and I are moving forward and are bigger than ever. Dana should shut the fuck up and try to figure out how to save his own company.”
As if to ramp the ludicrousness up to an all-time high, a December visit to Sirius XM’s “The Luke Thomas Show” saw De La Hoya suggest that the two stop the discourse and don the gloves in order to settle their differences. “Let’s get in the ring. Three rounds. Let’s do this!” De La Hoya said. “I’ll even give you five months so you can get off the juice and then we can get in great shape… I’m going to give you a 50lbs advantage? It’s OK. I can take you on.” In typically snarky form, Dana rebuffed his claims to TMZ by stating, “Makes sense — this guy likes to see 50-year olds fight.”
A tale of gregarious and outspoken personalities that no longer mesh, the problems between Dana and Oscar all stemmed from encroachment on one another’s territory in the fight game. Exacerbated by the Liddell incident, the only olive branch that these two shrewd businessmen would be receptive to nowadays would come in monetary form. And if anything could broker a truce, the increasingly profitable “gamebred” fighter Jorge Masvidal’s challenge to Goldenboy’s prized four-weight champion Canelo Alvarez could be the spark that leads to a reconciliation and terms being drawn for cross-promotion. Until such times where that becomes a reality, you can expect the barbs to keep flying from both sides of the fence.
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