Everyone’s jumping down Dana White’s throat for his statements about Georges “Rush” St-Pierre’s controversial (yet quite fair) decision victory over Johny Hendricks at UFC 167. It’s not that I don’t understand why people feel that way. When you work in a cubicle or on a laptop, it’s easy to side with a worker against his overbearing boss. All you want is a vacation – you’re not a world champion though. You’re especially not one of the longest reigning world champions in one of the most popular sports brands in the world (unless you’re reading this, GSP).
Georges St-Pierre,however, is most definitely a world champion; in fact he’s a disputed champion in one of the most contested divisions in mma. Steven Rodina breaks down all the many ways he redefined both the UFC and combat sports in general in his Bleacher Report piece, but he’s also doing it as a way of rubbing in Dana White’s face how the sport would be nothing without GSP as though White is running a child labor camp. Yes, Steven, it’s true that Rush is one of the main draws, and that’s exactly why it’s so important that we heed Dana White’s words.
More Mark Cuban than Don King
There’s no denying Dana White is a bit cocky – he runs his mouth and addresses a lot of controversial topics people don’t normally like to talk about. The UFC 167 controversy looks to be his way of creating a soapbox to rally against the Nevada Gaming Commission. This may add up to something sinister, but I’ve watched the UFC grow from the beginning, and the one thing you can always count on with Dana White is he LOVES the UFC – and he truly believes in the product he puts out, no matter what cynics like Jeff Wagenheim would have you believe with his Dana White takedown piece in Sports Illustrated.
When people jump down White’s throat for not backing GSP, they seem not to understand that he’s more than just a promoter. Dana White is to the UFC what Steve Jobs was to Apple; he’s the heart of the brand and their biggest fan. If he could, he’d have Mark Cuban seats to every UFC event in the world, live in the Ultimate Fighter house, and marry every fighter on his roster. The man eats, sleeps, and breathes his product. You will never find a bigger fan of the UFC than Dana White, so when he says Georges St-Pierre needs to retire, he’s not being the overbearing store manager who’s making you work your retail job on Thanksgiving or the editor breathing down your neck to report on something interesting, he’s a fan who’s trying to preserve the meaning of the championship belt.
To Be the Champ, You Have to Beat the Champ
I wrote a more detailed analysis of UFC 167 earlier this week, but the long story short of why GSP deserved the decision he won is because Johny Hendricks never beat him. Sure he came out strong in the beginning and landed a lot of hits, but there’s a reason the final two rounds are called the championship rounds. Georges St-Pierre dominated Johny Hendricks in the championship rounds. Hendricks himself admitted he didn’t give his all during the post-fight press conference.
The fight is what makes GSP the undisputed champion in my book, and this is where Dana White is right (since he’s way off base about the outcome of the fight). Regardless of anything that’s going on in St-Pierre’s life, he’s the champion, and he needs to act like a champion. Generals and Kings don’t get to take a day off just because they need a hug. We all have problems, and working through those problems is what makes a champion a champion.
If he has any integrity as an athlete, Georges St-Pierre has a duty and a responsibility as a champion to do the right thing and honor his commitments. If his personal issues are too overwhelming, then he needs to retire. You don’t get to save your spot in line. That’s how it works – that’s the definition of champion all those Nike and Gatorade commercials sold us on.
St-Pierre Owes Us
Yes, GSP is a human being who’s allowed to have problems. We all deserve a break – you don’t get to take a break at the wheel though. If you have to take time off and can’t defend your belt, vacate the throne; it’s that simple. You see it in nature all the time. That’s the spirit of a champion. Regardless of whether or not this whole thing is staged for the drama, that’s the way to prove you’re a true champion.