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UFC 272: Dana White 1-on-1 with Kevin Iole

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UFC president Dana White joins Yahoo Sports' Kevin Iole to recap Islam Makhachev's dominant performance versus Bobby Green and break down the bad blood between Colby Covington and Jorge Masvidal ahead of Saturday's UFC 272.

Video Transcript

KEVIN IOLE: Hey folks. I am Kevin Iole, and welcome to Yahoo Sports. We're just a couple of days away from UFC 272. And what a main event that should be-- Colby Covington versus Jorge Masvidal. Two former roommates who absolutely do not like each other. That is going to be a sensational main event.

Here to talk about it with me is Dana White, the president of the UFC. Dana, how's it going, my friend?

DANA WHITE: I'm good, buddy. How are you?

KEVIN IOLE: I'm great. You missed a good fight on Saturday. I know you had some personal things to do, but Islam Makhachev was really impressive. I mean, I don't think anybody's surprised that he beat Bobby Green when Bobby Green only had 10 days notice for the fight. But boy oh boy, did he look good. I'm sure you saw the fight. What was your take on Makhachev?

DANA WHITE: Yeah. And to be fair to Islam, I mean, Bobby Green only had 10 days. But Bobby Green was just coming off a successful camp and a fight that he took no damage in. So he was good to go. And Islam made it look easy. So you know, he did what he should have done to a guy who came in and wasn't ranked.

KEVIN IOLE: Right. Now I wrote in my column after that fight that there's-- Conor McGregor's been making that talk about fighting. But I mean, it seems to me like there's no other way that you can do anything but give Islam the title shot against the winner of Gaethje and Oliveira if there's going to be any credibility to the title. Do you agree with that?

DANA WHITE: Yeah. I mean, listen. I don't-- the rankings didn't come out today. He's the number four ranked guy in the world. I would still like to see Islam versus Beneil. I'd still like to see that fight. Or, he fights the winner of Justin and Charles, and Beneil is the first challenger to the title. Yeah.

KEVIN IOLE: But I mean-- so hearing you say that, I mean, the thing I've been worried about, and I think a lot of fans have been worried about, is Conner is going to somehow talk his way into this fight.

DANA WHITE: Conor is nowhere near ready to start fighting again. I mean, Conor's still got to go through a lot of--

KEVIN IOLE: That's not what he said?

DANA WHITE: Huh?

KEVIN IOLE: That's not what he's saying.

DANA WHITE: Why, did you talk to him?

KEVIN IOLE: He's been posting on social media, and he's ready to fight, he's going to be ready. And so I know he's--

DANA WHITE: He's not ready. I mean, realistically, how long do you think it takes before Conor comes back?

- Maybe in the summer.

DANA WHITE: Yeah. Yeah. Fall.

KEVIN IOLE: Fall? OK. All right, well, good. So we'll see. We'll see. Now is what Khabib said-- I talked to Khabib after the fight, and he mentioned the possibility of Islam fighting for the title in Abu Dhabi. That would seem to make sense, right? Have you had that discussion yet?

DANA WHITE: No. No, we haven't talked about any of that. I mean, the fight just happened on Saturday. Today's Monday.

KEVIN IOLE: Right. So what was your take--

DANA WHITE: Tuesday.

KEVIN IOLE: What was your take on the card overall? I thought it was a fairly good card. A lot of really good performances in there. What was your take Saturday on that show?

DANA WHITE: That was a great show. I mean, we call those sleepers. You know, the ones that everybody is buzzing about. This weekend everybody's buzzing-- everybody's coming into town for this fight. That's one of those sleeper cards.

KEVIN IOLE: Yeah. No, there was-- anybody stand out in your mind in that show, other than Islam? Obviously, he was the star of the show. But I mean, there was a lot of good performances. Terence McKinney was really good. Anybody who stands out--

DANA WHITE: And the women's fight-- the women's fight was unbelievable.

KEVIN IOLE: Yeah. And Cachoeira, I have to imagine, was probably on the verge of getting cut before that fight, given what she's been through. And so that was a big performance by her.

DANA WHITE: Absolutely. I don't know if she was on the verge of being cut or not, but yeah. I'm sure she felt the need to win.

KEVIN IOLE: A little pressure and the need to win, no doubt. Well, let's move into the main event of UFC 272, because that's what everybody wants to really hear about. And these two guys, you know-- I think a lot of times, Dana, you like to promote, and other promoters like to promote, hey, these guys don't like each other. And usually it's bullshit. There's not a thing there.

I mean, these two guys-- I think if ever there was truth, it would be that-- that these two guys don't like each other. So having said that, how do you think it affects the fight when there's so much emotion involved?

DANA WHITE: It's a good question. I don't know. I mean, these guys know a lot about each other. They've been roommates. They trained together. They came out of the same gym. They've cornered each other. I mean, they've literally done it all with each other. So it's almost like, when you've been around a guy that long, you kind of know what his weaknesses are and what his strengths are, and what you can do to him and what he can't do to you.

So it's going to be interesting to see how the fight plays out and what each guy works on and what their game plan is. I think that's all part of the fight.

KEVIN IOLE: You know, I would think, like, emotionally-- Masvidal was always an emotional type guy anyways, right? Colby with the wrestling and everything, you know, he has the trash talking. But Colby hasn't seemed to fight that way, right? You know, he maintains his cool and fights his style and grinds guys out.

Do you think there's any chance, because of how much he dislikes Masvidal, that we may see a different style from Colby?

DANA WHITE: I don't know. I think Colby's style is perfect. I mean, maybe he goes in and tries to take him down, but that's not really-- that's not really what he does. You always have to worry about Colby's takedown, so it always throws you off. So he uses his hands and usually picks you apart because you're so afraid of the takedown.

KEVIN IOLE: And his cardio is unbelievable, so he kind of wears guys out a lot of times, too. I mean, that's something that he does that I don't think a lot of people give him credit for.

DANA WHITE: Right. He puts tons of pressure on you, stays in your face, and he has a great chin.

KEVIN IOLE: Yeah. I mean, that's-- I mean, you know, he's coming off two losses to Kamaru Usman. But I mean, the one he got stopped in late, that was a really close fight. And then the other one, I mean, it was a coin toss. So it's like, it's unbelievable to say a guy-- he's 1 and 2 in his last two fights, but he's getting better. But I think we still see growth in Colby's game.

DANA WHITE: Well the truth is if Kamaru Usman doesn't exist, Colby Covington is the 170 pound champion of the UFC.

KEVIN IOLE: Right. Yes. And do you think it's fair-- like, I brought this up to him. I did a Zoom with him last week, and I brought up to him. I said, I looked at ufc.com. I looked at espn.com. I looked at my own pound for pound rankings, and there's no Colby Covington in there. Now, I updated that this week and I put him in because I thought, you know what? That's a mistake. And he should be in there.

But do you think that sometimes maybe Colby, because of all the smack talk he does and all that kind of stuff that he has going on, do you think he gets overlooked for how good he really is and what he's accomplished in this sport?

DANA WHITE: I agree with you 100%, Kevin. You're absolutely right. He should be in the pound for pound list, and yeah. Yeah, I agree.

KEVIN IOLE: The win over Masvidal, you would think, would do that for him and put him up there everywhere.

DANA WHITE: Maybe. We'll see. I agree with you. The fact that he's so unliked-- I think it makes him easy to be overlooked.

KEVIN IOLE: Right. Now Masvidal, on the other hand-- I mean, you know he's been up and down. He's Had some good wins-- the victory over Nate Diaz, the fight with Usman not so successful. I would imagine there's more pressure on him. For him to be the elite, top of the level guy, you know, he's got to put on a performance in this fight, I would think.

DANA WHITE: Yeah. I mean, the fight that made him, the fight to turned him into a huge superstar was the flying knee against--

KEVIN IOLE: Askren.

DANA WHITE: Yeah, Askren. You know, that's what turned him into a huge superstar. and. Obviously, a win over Colby, not just personally, but professionally is massive for him.

KEVIN IOLE: Right. You know, I think Masvidal also became a star for other reasons, not just the knockout. And I think the knockout was the thing that really got him going. But the look and the talk and everything that he did-- you know, he brought all that stuff together, which is sometimes-- I know you like to say, it's all about the fights.

But you look at some of the clips that you put out on Saturday during the show previewing it. See him with the buzz cut. You see him with the kind of genteel talk type thing. And now the street Jesus and the crazy look, and the differing looks. And the interviews he does-- I mean, it seems like he's taken himself, in not only just as fighting, but also his persona that he's created-- it has helped him.

DANA WHITE: I agree. He had all that. I mean, he had all that going on, anyway. Guy was a Street Fighter. He used to fight with-- came up with Kimbo Slice. The two piece and a soda with Leon Edwards. Back in the house thing that happened. But what blew him up and turned him into a huge superstar was that flying knee.

That flying knee first of all, nobody saw that coming, especially Ben Askren. All the shit talk leading up to that fight, you know, Ben-- what did he have? One loss or no losses? He was undefeated, or whatever his deal was. And I mean, to take him out the way that he did-- that clip went everywhere. It was viral. It was global, and blew him up into a huge star.

KEVIN IOLE: And people love to watch him now. There's no doubt about that. Now, you know, I talked about people who don't like each other. But you have a women's fight on this card, too. Agapova. That fight-- oh my God. I mean, they are-- those two were going at it. I don't know that too often I've seen women's fights where they don't like each other as much.

DANA WHITE: Yeah. I didn't-- I haven't seen that yet. Fill me in a little bit on it. What's going on?

KEVIN IOLE: Well, they're going back and forth on social media and they're calling each other classless. And I mean, and she got-- the one girl kicked the other girl out of the gym. And so it's just been filled with craziness. So yeah, I think that one-- there's going to be a lot of heat on that fight.

DANA WHITE: I didn't know that. That's awesome.

KEVIN IOLE: Yeah.

DANA WHITE: Thanks for the heads up on that one.

KEVIN IOLE: Yeah, that might be-- if you didn't know, now you know. See?

DANA WHITE: There you go. See?

KEVIN IOLE: By the way--

[INTERPOSING VOICES]

DANA WHITE: That's the one I got to do.

KEVIN IOLE: That's it. Now you got to get it in there. Hey, I saw something out there the other day that I wanted to ask you about. I think it's cool. You know, your little cooking thing that you do every Friday. Are you talking to Food Network about turning that into a show?

DANA WHITE: It already is. Yeah, we got a deal with Food Network. I start filming that thing this year.

KEVIN IOLE: So what kind of, like-- tell me. You know, obviously, it's great the way you're doing it now. Just a couple of seconds. It's a fun thing to watch and everything. How do you fill in a half an hour show? I mean, this seems like a little bit rough that way.

DANA WHITE: Yeah. Yeah. No, the concept would be a lot different than what we're doing right now. We would go to different places, have celebrities come in on the show and try the food. They're playing with the format of it right now. Once we get it dialed in, then I'll start filming. But this thing kills it. I was just telling the guy from, like, SBF, or was it SBF the other day? I mean, this thing does three to four million views?

KEVIN IOLE: How did you come up with that?

DANA WHITE: It's the biggest thing I do. Well, I like fried chicken. So me and Eric, my social media guy, were saying, I wanted to make this chicken sandwich where the bread was Krispy Kreme donuts. So we're going to try this. We did it once, and it was huge. People loved it. So we just started doing it every Friday.

We started putting together all this crazy food that is fun. Like for the Super Bowl, I did the Mountain Dew chicken wings. Now, you would never expect that to be-- it was incredible. The Mountain Dew chicken wings were really good. So we just-- we always look for some fun, cool. It was international clam chowder day on Friday. So we did--

KEVIN IOLE: With the potato?

DANA WHITE: Clam chowder potato skins, which were unbelievable. I like food, man. So it was a no brainer.

KEVIN IOLE: There have been some haven't liked. Which one has been the worst? Think, is there any that you would tell people, never eat this?

DANA WHITE: There's two. Whoever invented the Kool-Aid pickles needs their ass kicked. OK. Those are disgusting and horrible. And the other one was, we did spaghetti inside a sandwich. It was like a spaghetti sandwich. Those were my two. Those are two I don't like most. Yeah. Yeah.

KEVIN IOLE: That is funny. How do you think that benefits UFC? Like, is that just a thing that's getting you more in the mainstream? So when they see Dana White on Food Network, that attributes to UFC? And does that make the UFC just a little bit more? Is that like another chip on the pile?

DANA WHITE: Well, it definitely spills outside our bubble, you know what I mean? But at the end of the day, I do it on my social media. And it's just it's just something fun that I like to do. I enjoy food, and different types of foods. So I like exposing all of our fans to different types of stuff. So a lot of people do it, too. A lot of people try the stuff that we have because some of the stuff we do is really good.

KEVIN IOLE: Yeah. No, I mean, you had a taco thing. I even texted you when I saw. Remember, I said-- you had some taco thing. I forget what the hell it was. I said, I want to come over. It was pretty good. Hey, I want to ask you one other thing. And I think Floyd Mayweather is a great example of this. He was a guy that wasn't a big draw, didn't sell much.

And then he went out there and he did WrestleMania. He did "Dancing With the Stars," and all these mainstream things. And it seemed to pop him in. Now you're starting to get guys that are appearing on these TV shows and being in movies and whatnot. And how much of an effect do you think that has in terms of the recognition of the fighters, and helping them to build their brands and become bigger stars within the UFC?

DANA WHITE: Yeah. Well, you saw what it did for Paige Vanzant when she did "Dancing With the Stars." It was very big for her. And she's a great dancer, so it makes sense. And then we just had Miesha Tate, just won Big Brother, which she said was one of the hardest things she's ever done and she wouldn't recommend it to anybody.

But she did. You know why? Because she's a fucking winner, man. She's a competitor. And these are the type of people that excel on shows like that and do well. So when we have fighters who have the time, and you know, well-- I'm a huge fan of Family-- yeah, Family Feud. So I watch Family Feud all the time.

So we ended up doing boxing versus UFC on Family Feud, and the UFC got their ass kicked, which is mind boggling to me, and I want the rematch. I want the rematch on that. I don't know how the hell our guys lost Family Feud. It's unbelievable to me.

KEVIN IOLE: We got CCC on there. How did you lose with CCC.

DANA WHITE: It's unbelievable. I can't even comprehend how this happened.

KEVIN IOLE: Two other things I want to touch on with you. One of the things is, can you put a tangible impact on what ESPN, your TV deal with them, has made your numbers? Because each time I talk to you or talk to somebody there, we talk about the pay per view numbers. They're going up. You're obviously always praising the impact that they've had on you.

Tangibly, is it 10%? Are you seeing that 10%? 15%? What is the impact that ESPN has made on the UFC in terms of selling helping you build the brand?

DANA WHITE: Well, I guess the best way that I could explain it to you is that if you look at-- we broke every record that we've ever had since we've been on ESPN. We continue-- I mean the gate this weekend is going to be $6 million. And the list goes on and on. There's a few things. Being with ESPN has been unbelievable.

They have been great partners in helping build the sport and the brand. The other thing was, one of the biggest things we did was go through COVID. The fact that we were the only thing on during COVID-- I mean, what was our fan base? 43% or something like that? 43% our fan base grew during COVID.

KEVIN IOLE: How do you judge that 43%? I mean, what are the criteria?

DANA WHITE: People way smarter than me figure that out. I have no idea. But our analytics crew and our people. 43% the fan base grew. The social media-- do you remember what the number was on social media? It was massive. Social media we grew. Going through COVID was the best decision that I ever made.

KEVIN IOLE: Boy, how close you came to not being able to do it, right? I mean, it's amazing. So, look at it--

DANA WHITE: A million times. I mean, it's not how close we came to not being able to do it. It's how many people were out there trying to stop us.

KEVIN IOLE: Yeah.

DANA WHITE: Disgusting. Mind your business. Mind your business.

KEVIN IOLE: You talking to me?

DANA WHITE: No. It wasn't you. It definitely wasn't you.

KEVIN IOLE: Finally, let's wrap up. And I appreciate your time, Dana. The fight that a lot of people want to see, and we just don't know what the hell is going on. You've said it's going to happen. But when is it going to happen? Nate Diaz and Dustin Poirier. Can you fill me in on what's up with that?

DANA WHITE: Nothing yet. We got nothing done with that yet. When we do--

KEVIN IOLE: They want to fight each other. They wanted to fight right away. What's going on?

DANA WHITE: Yeah. That's-- yeah. Yeah. Not done yet.

KEVIN IOLE: So they don't want to fight each other.

DANA WHITE: I didn't say that.

KEVIN IOLE: OK. All right. Are we getting close?

DANA WHITE: You know how this goes. In the public it sounds like, yeah, yeah. If they wanted to fight each other, then the deals would be signed. It'd be done and I'd be announcing it. And I'm not saying they don't want to fight each other, but the fight isn't done yet. It's not even close to being done. When it is, we will announce it. If that's the fight that ends up happening.

KEVIN IOLE: OK. And just to run something. When I interviewed Colby the other day, he mentioned two fights that if he got through Masvidal, that he was interested in. And I just want to see if you would have interest in either one of those. First of all, you know he mentioned Dustin Poirier. They were also teammates, and apparently he doesn't like Dustin now.

And I don't know how you not like Dustin Poirier, who is one of the nicest guys there is. But he mentioned Dustin as a potential opponent. Do you like that as a fight for Colby if he gets through this one?

DANA WHITE: Well, Dustin is a 155 pounder. I mean, that's going to depend on what Dustin's got planned next for him, if he beats Nate, if he fights Nate, or whatever happens. I don't know. But I mean, Dustin Poirier is in a great position. I mean, there's a lot of things that could go down for him.

KEVIN IOLE: And he's a big star now, too, isn't he?

DANA WHITE: Yeah,.

KEVIN IOLE: No doubt. I thought. And then finally, Colby mentioned going up to 85 and fighting Adesanya as a potential bout for himself. Has he talked to you about that, and is that something you like?

DANA WHITE: No, but Adesanya is a world champion. I don't know how you jump from not beating Usman twice to Israel Adesanya. You know?

KEVIN IOLE: Stranger things have happened. I mean, it's the wrestling. And you know, it's a good thing.

DANA WHITE: Yeah. So you think you should be able to jump a weight class up take on that champion when he didn't beat the champion twice in his own weight class?

KEVIN IOLE: Well, I didn't-- no, I didn't say that. But I said-- you know, I said, hey, if he goes up and wins a fight at 85, then I think--

DANA WHITE: Oh, yeah. Yeah, yeah. Yeah, sure. He jumps up and beats Whittaker.

KEVIN IOLE: Yeah. So--

DANA WHITE: Yeah.

KEVIN IOLE: That might be-- all right. Well, very good.

DANA WHITE: That's a whole different story. Yeah. That I would do.

KEVIN IOLE: Yeah. OK. Now before I let you go, any-- what's the situation on tickets? You said it's going to be a $6 million gate if anybody wants to go. Are tickets still available or is it a sell out now?

DANA WHITE: I don't even know. But yeah, we're going to-- it's a sellout, but I'm sure you can get some tickets.

KEVIN IOLE: All right. UFC 272 on Saturday. Dana White, good luck on the show. Thank you very much for your time. Appreciate you, brother.

DANA WHITE: Thanks for having me.