Dana White fine with “playing second fiddle” in Vancouver
Hockey rules in Canada. Dana White says he gets it.
The normally brash UFC president played the gracious visitor Thursday, saying he doesn’t mind taking a backseat to the Stanley Cup final in Vancouver.
Game 5 of the Canucks-Bruins series is set for Friday at Rogers Arena. UFC 131 goes the next night at the same venue.
Ticket reseller StubHub had tickets starting at US$83 for UFC 131, as of early Thursday evening. The lowest price for Game 5 was $885.
The UFC says capacity for its show is around 14,000 to 15,000 and expects to have between 13,000 and 14,000 people Saturday.
UFC 115, Vancouver’s first show last June, sold out in just 30 minutes in a pre-sale, two days before tickets were slated to go on sale to the general public. It was a UFC record at the time.
“We didn’t blow it out here like we did last time but I’m very happy with the gate,” White said. “It’s going to be a successful show for us.”
Showing a rare diplomatic side, White said he saw the hockey and mixed martial arts mashup as “a good weekend for sports” rather than competition.
The UFC has held shows in Montreal when the Canadiens were in the playoffs — White even wore a Habs jersey during a question-and-answer session at the Bell Centre — but the hockey hype has been ratcheted up a few notches with the Stanley Cup at stake.
While White makes his home in Las Vegas, his roots are from Boston — something he didn’t shy away from at Thursday’s news conference which was open to the public at Vancouver’s downtown Robson Square.
“It’s good to be back, everybody,” White said before triggering some boos by adding: “It’s a little weird being from Boston being here today.”
White arrived in town on Wednesday night and tweeted “What’s up Vancouver” right after the Game 4 blowout in Boston.
“I didn’t get some very good responses,” he said with a laugh. “People weren’t too happy here yesterday.
“Listen, I’ve got a big mouth and I talk a lot of smack sometimes, (but) I’m not messing with this whole hockey thing. It’s like religion to you guys up here.”
Veteran fighter Kenny Florian, a Boston native who is friends with Shawn Thornton and several other Bruins, tried but failed to walk a diplomatic line.
“I’m not going to sit here and say ‘Go Bruins’ but ‘Go Bruins,”‘ he said, drawing more boos.
Said White: “There were more fights last night (in Game 4) than there probably will be on Saturday (at UFC 131). It was one of the craziest games I’ve ever seen and I only saw the highlights.”
Asked if he was going to go to Friday’s game, White replied: “I don’t know, I’m thinking about it. I don’t want to get killed over there.”
White told reporters later that he understands hockey and Canada.
“Let me tell you what, I don’t ever fool myself on what the No. 1 sport in Canada is, believe me,” White said. “Canada’s been very good to us, it’s been amazing. … I’ve no problem playing second fiddle to their hockey team playing here for the championship. I get it.”
“It’s good to be second fiddle,” he added. “I’ve been 90th fiddle from where I come from. Real mainstream media still doesn’t even cover us the way they cover other sports in the United States. The way Canada handles the UFC, you will hear no bitching from me, believe me. It’s been fantastic here, it always is every time we come up here. We love it.”
White acknowledged he is no puckhead.
“I’m not a big hockey fan. I like hockey and I respect it. I have absolutely nothing bad to say about hockey . . . I can’t stand soccer. I hate soccer, man. I hate it.
“I think the guys that play hockey are so talented. Especially when you’re getting your head taken off. OK, they’re on skates with a crooked stick and they’ve got to shoot it into a goal where the guy standing in front of it is just as big as the goal itself. And anybody can take your head off at any moment.
“It’s a crazy sport.” he said with a laugh. “But I’m a fight guy, that’s it.”
He may not get hockey, but he understand its role north of the border.
“It’s the only thing anybody cares about. It’s part of this culture. They’ve treated us so well up here I feel like we’re the No. 2 sport behind hockey. And when they’ve got their championship going on, I absolutely respect that 100 per cent.”