By Zach Kershaw
Following UFC 286, fans of the sport were actively discussing the event. Except they were not talking about either main event fighters. Instead, the focus was on someone who watched the fight from the stands.
Over 17,000 fans gathered in London, England to watch the final act of the trilogy between Leon Edwards and Kamaru Usman.
Following Edwards’ title defense, CEO of UFC Dana White announced who the next competitor to vie for the Welterweight title would be.
None other than Colby “Choas” Covington, who served as a backup fighter for the main event.
Notably, neither of the main event fighters knew about a backup fighter being in place according to mmajunkie.com.
The response was mostly negative. Many people claim there are fighters more deserving of a shot at the title. Others think that there are other factors involved and that Dana White, President of UFC, allows bias to creep in.
Fighters, fans, and analysts have already expressed their dissatisfaction with the decision made by White. Many believe that Covington simply has not earned himself another opportunity at the title.
Including the Welterweight champion, Edwards himself.
On a podcast with MMA analyst, Ariel Helwani, the two discussed the validity of the upcoming Welterweight title fight. During the conversation, Edwards was candid regarding his feelings about his next opponent while also dismissing the matchup against Covington.
“I think he needs at least one more fight,” Edwards said. “I just don’t get the case for him to fight for the title.”
This is not the first time that the term “Dana White privilege” has floated around the UFC space. Tony Ferguson coined the saying when Michael Chandler was given a title shot against Charles Oliveira in his second UFC contest.
At the time, many did not think much of the comment other than that it was entertaining. Years later, the expression still hovers around the UFC and now the argument has some foundation.
Alec Ludwig, UFC fan and film student relates the current UFC situation to a previous UFC fighter’s.
That fighter was Conor ‘The Notorious’ McGregor. The popular fighter was able to become the first double champion in UFC’s history, but it wasn’t without controversy.
“The idea of being a double champ was unheard of before McGregor,” said Ludwig.
During an eleven-month period, McGregor bounced between three different weight classes, Featherweight, Lightweight, and Welterweight.
McGregor would become champion of the Featherweight and Lightweight divisions, though it was short lived.
What is notable about this is that UFC held his status as Featherweight champion for the entire eleven months. On Nov. 12th, McGregor defeated Eddy Alvarez to become the Lightweight champion and the UFC’s first-ever double champion.
Two weeks later, UFC vacated the belt from McGregor for not defending the title.
Patricio Gonzalez, a sports management student believes the “Dana White privilege” rumor is reality.
The promotion of a “double champ” was something that the UFC was aware of. Many questioned why the UFC was sanctioning a champion-versus-champion fight when McGregor had yet to defend his Featherweight.
“It was clear what was going on,” said Gonzalez. “the idea of a pay-per-view with two champs fighting each other was guaranteed to sell.”
White also granted McGregor permission to box Floyd Mayweather in an exhibition that netted McGregor $100 million. Another move that was the first of its kind and one that has not been repeated. To this day, the UFC strictly prohibits their fighters from fighting out of contract.
“Dana will always try and get what he thinks is the best fight,” said Gonzalez. “It’s about selling tickets so if he doesn’t think you’ll sell, you’re out.”
In the sport industry, it is easy to get caught up in the athletes and their prowess. But it is vital to keep in mind that the UFC is a business and White it’s President of Operations. At the end of the day, his word is law and those under contract must abide.
Though fans, and fighters, are growing tired of the UFC’s vapid paths to titles, the sport is still growing. Edwards has opened his stance on facing Covington, when the time comes for a title defense whoever is facing Edwards will not be feeling any kinds of privilege.