UFC 275: Dana White 1-on-1 with Kevin Iole
UFC president Dana White previews UFC 275 with Yahoo Sports' Kevin Iole and discusses what's next for Dustin Poirier, Nick Diaz and the women's strawweight division.
KEVIN IOLE: What's up, everybody? I'm Kevin Iole. That is Dana White. UFC 275 is in Singapore on Saturday. It is going to be live on Pay-Per-View. Two title fights and a rematch of one of the best fights I have ever seen.
Dana, are you as excited for this Joanna Jedrzejczyk-Zhang Weili fight as I am? I mean, that was an incredible one the first time around.
DANA WHITE: I am. It's tough to put that kind of pressure on this fight this weekend because when you see a fight like that, it's-- you know, you're so lucky-- and we were so lucky to have been there and actually saw that fight live. But yeah, I mean, it's impossible not to be excited.
These two are both absolute savages. And I'm not putting the same expectations on this fight. But it should be damn good.
KEVIN IOLE: I think, you know, what makes this one even more interesting is they both lost a few times, right? So now they're going into this fight with the pressure on them of, you know, if they want to get the next title shot or be there, they need-- they need a win. So there's a lot of significance on the fight, not only just the rematch of a great fight from 2020.
DANA WHITE: Well, what's even more incredible is, I mean, they're both still two of the top three women in the world. And we're going to get to see it again. So yeah, it's awesome.
KEVIN IOLE: You know, Joanna has been out since that fight. I talked to her yesterday, and you know, she didn't seem to think that was going to be an issue. I like the fact that she took a long time off after the fight because I think it lets her body heal. And she didn't seem to think that she needed to do that. But what is your take on fighters, you know, when they have a brutal fight like that, taking long periods of time off and just kind of recovering?
DANA WHITE: I don't disagree with you. I think that when you come out of a war like that was a war, you need time. And those are the type of fights-- I mean, that fight was literally Chavez versus Meldrick Taylor, you know what I mean? Those are the kind of fights that can do long-lasting damage to your career.
KEVIN IOLE: Yeah, no doubt. I remember watching the fight over a second or a third time. And I saw myself sitting there at ringside going like this. And I mean, it was crazy when you saw what was going on.
Weili came back-- do you think there's been any change in her? Because she's fought a couple of times since then. Lost a pair of fights to Rose Namajunas. Do you think she's fought at the same level that she was at prior to that?
DANA WHITE: I don't know. I don't know. It's a tough question. I mean, she's still the number two, you know, strawweight in the world, which is a very big deal. I don't know. I don't know. This weekend's going to tell a lot about both of these girls.
KEVIN IOLE: You know Dana, it's interesting because I think, you know, we know in divisions-- and you know, it's cyclical, right? And your featherweights are way up now. It seems to me like a couple of the women's divisions are stagnating. And certainly the strawweights are, right?
You don't have a lot of-- Carla Esparza has already beaten Rose twice. You got Weili there, who's had back-to-back losses. You know, Marina Rodriguez lost to Carla. So you're in a kind of a spot there where you don't have a really-- would you agree there's not, like, a logical contender for the title in that division right now?
DANA WHITE: Well, I think that it's-- it's actually a fun division. I mean, you got Carla Esparza, Rose Namajunas, Weili Zhang, Marina, Mackenzie Dern, Jéssica Andrade, who's still an absolute beast. [INAUDIBLE]-- I mean, there's just all these women.
Nobody is really the standout like, oh my god, so much better than everybody else. You have nothing but fun fights in-- in the top-- you know, in the top seven in that division.
KEVIN IOLE: Yeah--
DANA WHITE: It's a good place to be.
KEVIN IOLE: Now, in the-- you have--
DANA WHITE: Now, this weekend, you got Carla Esparza, who just won the belt. This weekend, you got Weili Zhang versus Joanna. Depending on how this fight goes and whoever wins, it's a damn good fight now against Carla.
KEVIN IOLE: Right, no doubt. And I know-- I know Carla would like revenge on Joanna, so that would be a natural story line there. And in the co-main event, before we get to the main event, Valentina Shevchenko's at it again. I mean, to me, the best female fighter in the world. She is just absolutely phenomenal.
The one thing you got to wonder about her is, you know, what is her motivation level for somebody like Taila Santos? And I don't say that to disrespect Taila. But Taila is number four. She hasn't been around a long time. And Valentina has been knocking out number one contenders left and right.
How do you see that fight going? And you know, everybody has a chance in the fight game. Everybody has a chance. But it would be--
DANA WHITE: Let me tell you what, I say this-- this is more than she has a chance. The problem with this fight is that Santos is way more dangerous than people realize she is. Now, when you're talking about women fighting, and-- and you've got a woman in Taila Santos who has 13 finishes, 10 of them are knockouts. She has knocked out 10 other women and submitted three.
This woman is very dangerous. She's only got one loss in her entire career. And the problem is, people don't realize how dangerous this woman is.
Now, if Valentina Shevchenko rips through her like she has everybody else, holy [MUTED].
KEVIN IOLE: Yeah.
DANA WHITE: Holy [MUTED].
KEVIN IOLE: And Vale-- I mean--
DANA WHITE: This is going to be a much tougher fight than people think it's going to be.
KEVIN IOLE: It's going to be interesting. Main event, Glover Teixeira-- I wrote a column today, and I talked about how in a sport filled with nice guys, Glover Teixeira has got to be right at the top of that list. And I think everybody was so happy for him when he won the light heavyweight title from Jan Blachowicz last year.
Now, you put him in-- you don't get many breaks after that. You put him in with Jiri Procházka. So let me start with asking you about Procházka.
You know, he's only been in the UFC for two fights, and he's already got a title shot after two fights. What do you see in him? And tell people who may not have seen him in either of his two fights how good this guy is.
DANA WHITE: Yeah, he's another guy. I mean, to-- to come in that fast and become the number two ranked guy in the world, especially in the light heavyweight division, guy's got a 96% finish rate. 23 first round finishes. And he's on a 12-fight win streak. He is nasty.
Styles make fights. And stylistically, this should be a fun fight because you're going to have Glover Teixeira, who's got great standup, heavy hands, knockout power. You're going to see him try to get this thing to the ground. A-S-A-mother-[MUTED]-P. Believe me.
And the other thing that's interesting is many people believe that if it hits the ground, that Jiri's in big trouble. Many people believe if it stays standing, Glover's in big trouble. We're going to find out.
KEVIN IOLE: Yeah, it's really-- you know, you talked a lot about-- and I asked Jiri this, and he-- he sloughed it off. But I'll get your opinion.
You know, you talk about the UFC jitters, and being-- being on the big show. He's had that experience in the UFC. But having said that, only two fights, and now he's fighting for the title. Is there a concern that the moment might be too big for him, or just, you know, the fact that now, all of a sudden, it's like, hey, this is real?
DANA WHITE: You're right. And I believe in that. You know, if you look at a guy like Glover, Glover's seen it all, done it all, fought 'em all. Now he's even become the world champion. And yes, for Jiri, this is the first time that he's had, you know, the bright lights on him.
And his big night, there's absolutely going to be those nerves. And we're going to find out how he handles it.
KEVIN IOLE: You know, he is a guy, Dana, and I want to get your take on this, I always looked, you know, not who can be the champion, but who's going to be the next big star, right, that person that can take over the sport. And he's a guy that-- he's really a captivating guy when you talk to him. I think after the last fight, somebody asked him when he-- that incredible knockout of Dominick Reyes, one of the greatest knockouts in UFC history, somebody asked him about what he was going to do-- he won Fight of the Night and Performance of the Night-- what he was going to do with the money.
And he said, you know, girls, parties, and fast cars, right? And he's one of those kids that I think he's kind of got that sort of thing that people relate to him and can be-- can be a star that would rise above. Do you see that in him?
DANA WHITE: Yeah, absolutely. First of all, first and foremost, it's about how you fight. And he's a bad dude. So all the other stuff is just, you know, if you got that kind of a personality and you can fight your ass off, yeah, you're probably going to be a big star.
KEVIN IOLE: Right. How much do you think this affects-- I mean, they're not used to fighting on Sunday morning. Just being international, they fight on Sunday in Singapore time so it can be prime time over here. Is that anything-- you know, it happens in Abu Dhabi too, when you go over there. Is that anything that's an issue for-- timing-wise or anything like that for guys?
DANA WHITE: Yeah, I would-- I would give the advantage to the younger guy on that one. You know, as you get older, the traveling, the jet lag, all that [MUTED] piles up on you as you get older. So I would definitely say that that's an advantage for Jiri.
KEVIN IOLE: I want to ask you a couple of other things, but I want to talk to you about that featherweight division. You have, you know, Movsar Evloev's win over Dan Ige-- you know, I have great respect for Dan Ige. And that was a dominant performance the other day that he did.
I liked his callout of Arnold Allen. But there's a number of guys in that division that you can throw up and say, hey, I'm going to put him against. What was your take on him? And do you think he stamped himself as a legitimate contender now with that performance against Dan?
DANA WHITE: Yeah, absolutely. And I agree with you, if you look at that top 10 in that division, it's insane. I mean, you have him, he's ranked number 10 now. You got Bryce Mitchell, Ige, Josh Emmett, Arnold Allen, Calvin Kattar, Yair Rodriguez, Ortega, Holloway, and Volkanovski, all straight killers in the top 10.
KEVIN IOLE: Yeah. Yeah, it is pretty amazing. And we got Holloway and--
DANA WHITE: And Yusuff-- Yusuff is number 12.
KEVIN IOLE: Right.
DANA WHITE: He's nasty.
KEVIN IOLE: Yeah, no, I've always thought he-- Yusuff was a guy that was going to really be good. Like, you know, I mean, so far, he's been good. He hasn't been as dominant as I may have expected him to be. But I think-- I really like him as a fighter, as well.
DANA WHITE: I agree.
KEVIN IOLE: Yeah. You know, Charles Oliveira said on Twitter that he knows his next opponent, and that he knows he's not fighting in Brazil. Can you fill us in on where-- what's up with Charles? Is Islam going to get the fight?
DANA WHITE: He said that he-- what did he say?
KEVIN IOLE: He said he knows who his next opponent is going to be. He didn't reveal it. He said that you told him who it was going to be, and that it won't be in Brazil. So that was the two nuggets he put out. You know--
DANA WHITE: So what are you asking me? You're asking me to tell you before I'm ready to announce it?
KEVIN IOLE: Exactly. Now, you-- I'm sitting here waiting for you all morning--
DANA WHITE: [COUGHS]
KEVIN IOLE: --so announce it now.
DANA WHITE: Ha. Good talking to you, Kevin. Have a great weekend.
KEVIN IOLE: Hey, man, I have plenty-- I have all this time, Dana. I have time-- time [INAUDIBLE]. What's the time frame for him? So-- and--
DANA WHITE: I would say he's probably going to fight in October. I have fights made all the way up to October 8 already. So probably October or November.
KEVIN IOLE: OK, fair enough. I want to also find out about the featherweight-- or excuse me, the flyweights, what's going on. I'm not sure what Deiveson Figueiredo is doing right now. I know you have an interim title fight with Brandon Moreno and Kai Kara-France.
What's going on with Figueiredo? Have you talked to him or anybody on his team about what's up with that? And you know, he's basically saying he may not fight at flyweight anymore now.
DANA WHITE: Yeah. I-- listen, that's up to him. I haven't talked to him. You know, the matchmakers have. But yeah, that's up to him.
You know how this rolls, man. We don't play games. We-- we keep right on moving. And-- and you know, we keep the divisions rolling. You in or you out?
KEVIN IOLE: Well, let me ask you this-- he won the title back in January in a close fight, which I actually thought Moreno won. But I know it was a fight that could have gone both-- either way. Why, like, an interim title fight so quickly?
DANA WHITE: I don't know what the situation was. I don't remember exactly what happened with him and his camp. But obviously, you know, if we made that decision, it's because they either couldn't-- couldn't come in and perform, or there were some games going on. I don't know the exact story of what happened.
KEVIN IOLE: OK. So now-- so I'm going to anticipate your answer here, but I'm assuming you don't know yet because you haven't gotten a final verdict from him. But is there a chance that the winner of Moreno versus Kara-France would end up just being the champion, and with no interim behind it?
DANA WHITE: Yeah, I mean, if [? he ?] moved up to bantamweight, then definitely.
KEVIN IOLE: That-- you would just put that up for--
DANA WHITE: Yeah.
KEVIN IOLE: OK. All right, a couple other things, and I'll let you got out here. How-- how happy are you with this season of [? "TUF"? ?] And what do you-- what do you see in the prospects? What are-- what are your takes on--
DANA WHITE: Yeah, it's a good season. It's a solid season. It started off a little rocky for me. You know, I didn't love the first fight.
But yeah, it turns right-- you have to understand too, right now, what we're going to go through over the next couple of years are the effects of COVID and no-shows happening for two years. We're going to start to feel that.
KEVIN IOLE: What do you mean? Explain that.
DANA WHITE: Talent, as far as talent. The last two and a half years, all those fights before the world shut down-- there were fights going on every weekend all over the world.
KEVIN IOLE: Development of young fighters--
DANA WHITE: [COUGHS] Right. And then the only MMA group that went through the thing was us.
KEVIN IOLE: Right.
DANA WHITE: So you're going to see an effect of up and coming talent here. We're probably seeing it now. And we'll feel it for the next couple of years. Then hopefully, everything gets back into-- into full swing. But yeah, I'm really happy with this season.
KEVIN IOLE: Does that concern you? Because obviously you're only as good as the fights that the fighters can put on, right? I mean, you can do all the bells and whistles, as you say. But if you-- at the end of the day, hey, if the talent pipeline-- you know, we know everything's cyclical. Sometimes you have great fighters throughout a lot of divisions, sometimes it's not as good as it is. How much of a concern is that?
DANA WHITE: It's not. You know, this is one of the biggest sports in the world. There's athletes training everywhere on this planet right now. And yeah, it's not a concern.
Listen, it's going to be-- there's definitely going to be a little hiccup. But we'll get through it.
KEVIN IOLE: A couple of other things that I wanted to ask you about. You know, Dustin Poirier is out there. And he's been looking for a fight.
And I feel really bad for him. Everywhere he turns, he says, I'll fight this guy, I'll fight this guy. And you know, it seems like he's getting shut off at every corner.
What kind of thought do you have on him? And you know, when might you have something ready for-- a fight ready for him?
DANA WHITE: Yeah, I don't think-- I don't think he's getting shut off at every corner. I wouldn't feel too bad for anybody. Listen, we make fights-- I got to make fights-- think about this-- I have to make three fights a year for everybody on the roster.
KEVIN IOLE: Right.
DANA WHITE: So nobody's just sitting around going, holy [MUTED], I can't find a fight. Why can't I get a-- that's [AUDIO OUT]
KEVIN IOLE: Well, every time you turn around, you have Nate Diaz complain-- you know--
DANA WHITE: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
KEVIN IOLE: OK.
DANA WHITE: Well, let me tell you-- what, if I don't-- if I don't keep my obligations to them, then I have to pay them without fighting. So--
KEVIN IOLE: Right.
DANA WHITE: --what would that tell you? That would tell you that probably-- it's probably not-- what you're hearing probably isn't 100% the truth.
KEVIN IOLE: So you're telling me that what somebody tweets may not be accurate? Is that what you're saying?
DANA WHITE: Uh-huh, possibly. I have to get guys three fights a year.
KEVIN IOLE: Right.
DANA WHITE: Per contract. If I don't get them three fights a year, I have to pay them.
KEVIN IOLE: That-- well--
DANA WHITE: So if I'm not paying anybody not to fight, the story might not be what it sounds like.
KEVIN IOLE: [LAUGHS] What about Nate? Nate made a splash-- I mean, not Nate, excuse me, Nick, Nick Diaz. He made a splash by saying he wanted to fight Usman, right? Of course, he hasn't won a fight in, you know, in how long. But are you entertaining a return by him, or do you-- is your belief that last fight with Robbie Lawler should have been enough for Nick?
DANA WHITE: Do you think I should, [? dude? ?] Nick versus Usman?
KEVIN IOLE: [LAUGHS] You-- you do what you want. I'm just watching them.
DANA WHITE: Yeah.
KEVIN IOLE: No, but I mean, are you entertaining a Nick Diaz return fight in any way?
DANA WHITE: Not that I'm aware of, no.
KEVIN IOLE: OK, I mean-- he thought-- he didn't fight badly in that fight, right? I mean, so--
DANA WHITE: No.
KEVIN IOLE: --against Lawler, so--
DANA WHITE: Especially for as long as he was off. And you know, he's-- listen, there's no denying the Diaz brothers are tough kids, man. But talk to me about Nick Diaz versus Usman [? if ?] Usman is the pound for pound best fighter in the world.
KEVIN IOLE: Right. No, but I guess what I'm saying is, you know, people love Nick. You make fights that people want to-- want to watch. And he's a guy that, I think, as you said, moves the needle, right? And so--
DANA WHITE: But I need to look out-- I need to look out for Nick and make sure that Nick doesn't get hurt.
KEVIN IOLE: Well, I'm not talking about Usman. I'm talking about anybody in the division. That's what I'm asking you about. Would you consider him with anybody else, you know, in the division that--
DANA WHITE: I don't know, Kev. I don't know, Kev. I put on fights with the best fighters in the world. And-- you know, I mean, how old is Nick now? I--
KEVIN IOLE: 38.
DANA WHITE: You're asking me-- you're asking me silly questions, Kevin.
KEVIN IOLE: That's not silly! There's a lot of people that care about Nick Diaz.
DANA WHITE: I agree, and I'm one of them. And I-- I don't want to see Nick Diaz get hurt.
KEVIN IOLE: All right, very good. Well, Dana, we will let you roll. I know you have a busy day going, so I appreciate your time. UFC 275 Saturday from Singapore, live on Pay-Per-View. Dana White, thank you very much.
DANA WHITE: Thank you, buddy.
KEVIN IOLE: See you, bro.