Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Sunday, Nov. 17, 2013 | 2 a.m.
The man perhaps most vital in delivering the UFC to its 20th anniversary was left organizing the figures to recognize instead of receiving the celebratory due himself.
Dana White got in his moment in the end, though. It just came after UFC 167 had concluded.
The UFC President showed a classic example of the unbridled passion and nonexistent filter he’s used to build the company in the aftermath of Georges St. Pierre’s split-decision win (48-47, 48-47, 47-48) over Johny Hendricks Saturday night at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
A fuming White believed Hendricks deserved the welterweight-championship victory and that St. Pierre was wrong to hint at retirement after the fight. He stormed into the post-fight press conference red-faced and holding nothing back.
“I want what’s fair and that wasn’t fair,” White raised his voice as soon as a reporter asked about the decision. “I think the Nevada State Athletic Commission is atrocious. I think the governor needs to step in immediately before these guys destroy this sport like they did boxing.”
As usual, White’s diatribe was met with a mixed reaction. That was mostly because his longest-tenured champion, the UFC’s pay-per-view king, wasn’t exempt.
White initially took just as an aggressive aim at St. Pierre for saying he needed to step away from the sport for a while after his 10th consecutive title defense.
“There’s no, ‘Listen, I’m going to go on a cruise and I’m going to be gone for two years. I’m going to take a hiatus. I’m going to take a leave of absence,’” White said. “Whatever the hell he was saying, that’s not how it works.”
“You owe it to the fans, you owe it to the belt, you owe it to this company and you owe it to Johny Hendricks to give him that opportunity to fight again unless you’re going to retire.”
Like the majority of media and fans — though the Sun scored the bout 48-47 for St. Pierre — in the building, White couldn’t comprehend how the judges wound up with St. Pierre as the winner. Just look at the fighters, White insisted.
St. Pierre’s face was a blend of black and blue, the second-most damaged mug White said he had ever encountered. Hendricks’ only injury was his hands from, as he put it, punching St. Pierre in the head.
White thought the only way to go was an immediate rematch between St. Pierre and Hendricks. Count Hendricks in.
“If I get to see him in the ring again, it won’t go the distance,” Hendricks promised. “I will finish him. I know I can go five rounds now. I proved that tonight. The judges kind of ripped my heart out.”
If St. Pierre embarks on the sabbatical he hoped for, however, one of the biggest potential money fights the UFC could book would suddenly be lost. There was some speculation that St. Pierre could have just spoken emotionally in the moment afterwards in the octagon.
But when the champion arrived 20 minutes late to the press conference after getting stitched up, he stuck to his plea for personal time while remaining vague on the reason.
“I understand from the point of view of the UFC,” a soft-spoken St. Pierre concluded. “It’s bad for them if I leave like this. Like I said, I need to make a point in my life. I can’t sleep at night. I have issues. I need to relax. I need to get out for a while.”
White vowed he would do everything to make or force St. Pierre to reconsider. The process started immediately.
White met with St. Pierre for about 10 minutes after the press conference before reappearing in front of the media, lowering his tone and expressing confidence in the future.
“He’s obsessing over something right now that he thinks is the end of the world,” White said of St. Pierre, “but it’s not.”
White reported that when he entered the octagon after the fight, St. Pierre and his team knew they had lost. But St. Pierre disputed that account.
He thought the fight was tied going into the final round, which he won decisively even in the minds of the most ardent Hendricks backers.
“I gave everything,” St. Pierre said. “I left my soul in the octagon tonight.”
And that might have been the difference. In the first five-round championship fight of his career, Hendricks admitted to only throwing his strikes with “70 percent” intensity in an effort to conserve energy.
Hendricks claimed that was enough before White interrupted for a reminder that it wasn’t, not in the eyes of two of the three judges.
“I am the champion,” Hendricks defiantly declared. “I out-jabbed him. I out-struck him. I out-wrestled him. I did everything to win the fight except for those two judges that didn’t give it to me. I didn’t prove it to them. That won’t happen again.”
Don’t be surprised if the “again” comes sooner than St. Pierre’s comments would indicate. White may have his own unique style of conducting business, but if the history of the UFC shows anything, it’s that he usually gets his way.
“I’m blown away that Georges St. Pierre won that fight, and listen, I’m a promoter,” White said. “He’s the biggest pay-per-view star on the (expletive) planet for me, and I still don’t think he won that fight.”