DALLAS — Dana White’s reward for delivering the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s most successful card of the year was to walk straight into a mixed blessing, one guaranteed to give him headaches on an obstacle-strewn route to a pot of gold.
UFC 211 on Saturday night lived up to the hype of being billed as the organization’s biggest and best of 2017 so far, with an action-laden undercard topped off by a brilliant performance from women’s strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk and an explosive one from heavyweight king Stipe Miocic.
Yet White took a deep breath and ran a hand across his wrinkled brow as he left American Airlines Center in the early hours of Sunday, reflecting on the knowledge that pending negotiations with Conor McGregor would form the most significant part of his immediate future.
White and McGregor were due to convene hours later to seek a resolution on financial terms for the Irishman’s proposed boxing matchup against Floyd Mayweather. Such things are never easy with McGregor, who knows his worth and seeks maximum leverage for it at every opportunity. This one, with a monstrous payday at stake, surely lines up to be no different.
White was optimistic, but cautiously so.
“We are right there (with Conor),” White said. “I am expecting to execute an agreement so then I’ll start working with Team Mayweather next week. We are just getting through this deal with Conor but what do you think the Mayweather side of it is going to be like? And how much time do you think I am going to spend on this?”
In reality, White will spend whatever time it takes and give the issue as much attention as it needs for a simple reason: Money. There is a ton of it at stake here, tens and possibly hundreds of millions, a special, one-off event guaranteed to capture the attention of an audience beyond both boxing and mixed-martial arts.
But now the real tough part begins. White is accustomed to dealing with characters who do not wish to give him his own way. McGregor is one of them, Nate Diaz is another, yet the UFC chief knows that ultimately he will always hold a significant degree of leverage over either on account of the brand he represents.
With Mayweather, that leverage does not exist, at least not to anything like the same degree. To boot he will be dealing with, in undefeated pound-for-pound boxing star Mayweather, an ego of perhaps unparalleled size.
Mayweather is also, for all his laughable spending habits, extraordinarily wealthy, meaning that he will have the trump card of being able to, or at least being able to pretend to, walk away from the negotiating table if he does not get his way.
Let’s not feel too sorry for White. If Mayweather-McGregor does indeed happen he, aside from the two protagonists, will probably be the person to profit the most.
Which is why he will sit and talk and do what needs to be done.
“It depends on how ridiculous it is,” White added, when asked to what extent the talks would be allowed to cut into the time he needs to commit to regular UFC matters. “The question is ‘how profitable?’ You can assume how many pay-per-view buys you are going to do but every time you put on a (show) it is a roll of the dice.
“You don’t know what is going to happen. You don’t know. There are some fights you do know and this feels like one of the fights that should do that, but you never know.”
And with that White was gone, looking more stressed than many of the raucous and engaged Dallas crowd would have probably expected after a highly entertaining night.
Now it is up to him and McGregor and then him and Mayweather to get things done, two opponents as formidable at the negotiating table as in the ring or the octagon. Yet White is no wallflower, and the verbal match-ups involved would probably be worth a pay per view viewing in their own right.