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John McCarthy savages Dana White’s MMA media hit piece: ‘Real leaders, they don’t have to take credit’

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Veteran MMA official and Bellator commentator John McCarthy on Wednesday responded to a UFC-produced video that counted him among the industry-leader’s detractors during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a fiery series of monologues, McCarthy accused UFC President Dana White of hypocrisy in selective editing of comments he and other media members made in the video. He also ridiculed the video’s narrative touting White’s efforts to restart the fight promotion’s live event schedule amid criticism.

“Here’s a guy that says, ‘I don’t give a f*ck about the media,’” McCarthy told co-host and former UFC fighter Josh Thomson on the video podcast “Weighing In.” “First off, I don’t even look at us as media, but that’s OK. But, [he said], ‘I don’t give a f*ck about the media,’ but then he always complains about clickbait. [He says], ‘These media guys and that clickbait bullsh*t that they do.’ And it’s like, what the f*ck did you and your little team do, man? You little clickbait b*tch.

“I just cracked up, man. You are so pathetic that you – first off, that you need to have your pat on the back – OK, let me pat you on the back – because you took everything out of context, you made it to where were you were the hero. Congratulations, hero Dana. Oh, let me bow down to you. Unbelievable. My god.”

In the UFC’s video, McCarthy and Thomson are seen on “Weighing In” as McCarthy makes an accusation that for White, “lining your pockets with money is more important than the safety of the production staff and the people you have fighting for you.” The clip is one of many culled from MMA video podcasts and reports that came out as the UFC tried to move forward with UFC 249 by holding the event at the Tachi Palace Casino Resort on tribal land after its initial location in Brooklyn was scratched due to the coronavirus pandemic.

McCarthy indicated the UFC video was misleading because it didn’t explain the ramifications of the promotion’s attempt to move UFC 249 to tribal land from a jurisdiction where the event would be sanctioned by a state athletic commission, effectively making it an unsanctioned event. That decision, McCarthy said, would lead to consequences for officials and fighters who worked it.

“I was 100 percent supporting [the UFC holding events],” he said. “When he went to Jacksonville, Fla., I was one of his biggest supporters, because he wasn’t doing what he was doing with the Tachi Palace … fight that was illegal. He was leading himself down into a path that the California State Athletic Commission refused to regulate the show … at the Tachi Palace. They said, ‘We are not going to do that, we do not want you to have that there.’

“And Dana’s part of it. He’s done so much to try to get the sport regulated, and he was taking a huge step backward in trying to put on a show at Tachi Palace. He can sit there and say whatever he wants to say – he was going to self-regulate the show. That was a huge mistake, and it was a mistake for every official. He put California officials – he put Herb Dean in a horrible spot. If it was Jason Herzog or Mike Beltran, they can’t do that show, because they’re going to get unlicensed by the CSAC, or they’re going to get suspended. … Now they’re giving an opportunity to another athletic commission to say, ‘We’re not going to use you.’ It was putting people in a really bad spot.”

UFC 249 ultimately was delayed a second time when the UFC’s broadcast partner, ESPN, asked the fight promotion to postpone the event after pressure from California Governor Gavin Newsom and Senator Dianne Feinstein to shut it down. Despite the postponement, White subsequently declared victory, saying he was ready to hold an event and pushed back the event out of respect for ESPN.

The UFC subsequently restarted its live event schedule in May, using Jacksonville as a hub city for a trio of shows. Prior to receiving the go-ahead, they submitted to state officials a detailed testing protocol that addressed concerns over fighter safety amid the global pandemic. The protocol also helped convince state regulators in Nevada to sanction events beginning in late May. From then on, the UFC APEX became the fight promotion’s domestic hub while Fight Island in Abu Dhabi served as an international destination.

Prior to the first Jacksonville event, gaps in the protocol were exposed. Dozens of fighters tested positive for COVID-19, forcing the cancellation of bouts and last-minute scrambles to salvage fight cards.

In the video, White credited himself with providing jobs for UFC fighters and employees, dismissing McCarthy and other journalist’s opinions that he merely sought to line his pockets by promoting during the pandemic. McCarthy said that idea, too, was misleading.

“I love what the UFC puts out as a product, but when you take huge steps backward to put on a show, and let’s just be flat out honest about why Dana was so intent on putting out shows,” McCarthy said. “It wasn’t because he was so into, ‘Oh, I want to keep my people employed.’ He needed to put on those shows so he could get the money for ESPN because he had a 42-fight contract that he had to meet for him to get his $750 million.

“Now, by putting on the shows, I love the fat that he kept all the fighters being able to make a living. I love the fact that nobody from the staff got cut. Those are all beautiful things, big-time things. But that all happened from that first show in Jacksonville forward, because he was able to put on those shows. That’s what it was all about. That’s what we were talking about.”

McCarthy said that as the UFC moved forward at the start of the pandemic, he spoke with several high-level executives who agreed with his caution, but indicated they balked at disagreeing with the UFC boss in favor of trying to “work around this and make him understand.”

The veteran official’s caution was driven in part by personal experience with the virus, he said. Following the cancellation of Bellator 241 on March 13 as the pandemic exploded, McCarthy said he knew a person who contracted the virus while traveling back from the event and almost died.

McCarthy applauded the UFC’s efforts after the promotion solidified a testing protocol, however imperfect the results were in keeping fighters and their families free of the virus. But he said White shouldn’t be taking a victory lap.

“That’s the new norm,” McCarthy said. “You’re going to lose fights. It’s not the UFC’s fault. They can’t keep everybody healthy. They can’t keep somebody from getting the coronavirus, but what they can do is try to keep everybody that doesn’t get it safe from the person that could possibly give it to them, and that’s what really took place. They had a lot of cards get kind of smashed based upon health issues. So did Bellator. All you can do is try to work through it.

“I just looked at the entire complexity of what he’s doing, and it’s like, you sit there and you say, ‘I have plenty of money.’ You’re right. You do. OK, you do. And you should be comfortable enough with yourself that you don’t have to try to put something out there to pat yourself on the back. Because you’re kind of following people that you show that you like in that they always have to take credit. Real leaders, they don’t have to take credit.”

For fans suggesting McCarthy should thank White for going first in restarting the sport of MMA, he issued another fiery rebuttal.

“Let me make this you clear to you, motherf*ckers,” he said. “I was there a long f*cking time before Dana White. You want to see a picture of Dana White when I first f*cking met him? I’ll show you his little dweebie ass.

“I was not brought in by Dana White. I had to work with Dana White, and, I will tell you Dana White did a great job of making the UFC what it is. He worked his ass off. He deserves a ton of credit for it. But don’t think that I f*cking owe him anything. I don’t owe him anything and he doesn’t owe me anything. Boom.”

Check out the full video below.

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