Rashad Evans (left) made an insensitive comment about the Penn State scandal Wednesday at a press conference to promote UFC on Fox 2. (Youtube.com)
UFC bantamweight Miguel Torres has been dropped by the organization on the heels of his tweet this week about a “rape van,” SI.com has learned. Meanwhile, UFC president Dana White says the details regarding insensitive remarks made by a remorseful Rashad Evans were such that Evans won’t suffer a similar fate.
In a Q&A with SI.com Thursday afternoon, White shared this thoughts about the miscues after they had gone viral over the previous 24 hours. Torres had come under fire for posting a tweet that read: “If a rape van was called a surprise van more women wouldn’t mind going for rides in them. Everyone like surprises.” Evans, meanwhile, during a public press conference promoting his Jan. 28 fight on Fox, said to his opponent, former Penn State wrestler Phil Davis, “I guarantee you'll be the first one to take a [wrestling] shot. Guarantee. Because I'm going to put my hands on you worse than that dude did them other kids at Penn State."
SI.com: Let's talk about Rashad.
Dana White: First of all, if you saw the press conference, it was the worst microphone system in the history of this company. The microphones at this place either didn’t work or they’d go in and out in between every word you said. So Rashad said that [the Penn State joke] yesterday. I didn’t even hear what he said. And it didn’t even get back to me until I landed in Toronto, which was four hours later.
Here’s the other thing you’ve got to understand. With my fighters, there’s no excuses like, “Hey, listen, he’s a dumb guy. Came from the mean streets of somewhere. He’s just not all that bright.” These are educated guys, most of them went to college, they have families, children, etc. These are smart, rational people I’m dealing with.
So when I call Rashad about this thing, he’s like, “You know what Dana,” and gives me the context of it. Him and Davis started getting into this heated back-and-forth about what they’re going to do to each other the night of the fight. Davis went to Penn State. Davis wrestled for Penn State. Rashad wrestled for Michigan. [Rashad] said, “It just came out.” Zing him and zing his school at the same time. Very, very poor choice of words. I mean, it was the stupidest thing he could have said and he absolutely agrees.
So we talked on the phone, he gave me his explanation, he said, “I’ll do whatever it takes, I’m sorry, I didn't mean to offend anybody. In the heat of the moment, that’s what I said to him because he’s from Penn State.”
SI.com: So you didn’t hear it during the press conference? No one said anything to you right after you walked off?
White: No! Nobody said anything at the press conference. Nobody said anything on Twitter that had watched it. It wasn’t until ESPN wrote a story that anybody said anything to me.
SI.com: So you didn’t take any recourse with Rashad? There was no fine?
White: I talked to Rashad. Rashad walked me through what he did. He went to Penn State. [He said] I wanted to slam him and Penn State. I’m not like traditional sports [executives]: “All right Rashad, pay us 30 grand.” That stuff is all formalities to make it look good. Yeah, he was fined, he was this, he was that. Rashad is sorry for what he said. He truly is. He said it in the heat of the moment. He definitely took the wrong choice of words. He knows it and I know he knows it.
SI.com: And what about Miguel Torres’ tweet from yesterday?
White: This morning I’m on [Michael] Landsberg’s show, up here in Canada, and he hits me with the quote of what he tweeted. Now there’s no explanation for that. There’s absolutely nothing I could say to make any sense of that. And the fact that he even thinks that’s funny or that’s a joke, it disturbs me. It bothers me. Again, you’re dealing with a guy that’s a smart guy, that owns his own business, that’s been one of the top fighters in the world forever. And I cut him today. He’s no longer with the UFC.
SI.com: Was that announced today?
White: It’s being announced right now to you. You’re the only one that knows. Miguel Torres has been cut from the UFC and his career with us now is over.
SI.com: Was this the first time something’s happened with Torres? Or was it a second offense?
White: No, this was the first time. And then he said he hadn’t heard what happened to Forrest [Griffin, who drew fire for tweeting "Rape is the new missionary" last month]. Really? Where do you live? What business are you in? How do you not hear about these things? You should have paid more attention. It’s to the point now where, there’s going be times when things happen and mistakes are made. I cannot defend Miguel Torres. I cannot defend what he said. What he said makes no sense other than when he says, “It was a joke.” Well, I don’t think that’s a funny joke. I think it’s disturbing.
SI.com: So many of the major sports leagues have been curtailing their athletes’ involvement on Twitter, but the UFC has been praised for being so progressive and forward-thinking with social media. Are we now seeing the perils of that?
White: No. I’m a firm believer in … just because these guys are professional athletes or whatever, everybody’s going to have an opinion on something, and not everybody’s going to get along. I’ve had my words with fans on Twitter too. When people come on Twitter and say dumb s--- to you, expect to get some dumb s--- back. But for a guy to go out and talk about a “rape van” being a “surprise van,” there’s no defense for that.
And I’m a realist. I treat people and I deal with my fighters and I deal with the fans like a real person. I don’t come out and read canned statements written by our lawyers. I deal with the guys on a case-by-case basis and how they handle themselves. We’re all entitled to make mistakes. I’m not one of these guys where if you make a mistake, I’m gonna try to tear your life down and burn it to the ground.
We just had one of our fighters, Chris Leben, test positive for [Oxycodone and Oxymorphone], and he’s been suspended for a year by the UFC. Now with the suspension it’s not like, “Hey, Chris, you’re suspended, we don't want to hear from you in a year, good luck with your career and everything else, and if it doesn’t work out, oh well, there’s a million other fighters waiting to line up.” I care about this guy, as a person, as a human being, before he’s a fighter. And I want to make sure Chris Leben is OK. If he needs any type of therapy or rehab or whatever it might be to make sure his personal life is on track, that means more to me than anything else. There’s going to be guys that are going to make mistakes. Some guys are going to make mistakes bad enough that they’re going to burn themselves to the ground. It’s all in how a guy handles himself after he makes a mistake. That’s what I care about.
SI.com: You’ve said the first two years of the new Fox deal will be the most important 24 months in the UFC’s history. Part of the appeal of the sport is how raw and unfiltered a lot of the guys are. Is there a balance need to find between the two forces?
White: I want this sport to stay exactly the same. We’re the most fan-accessible sport out there. When you show up at an event, you talk to fighters and you meet fighters. A lot of times, [the fans and the media] live in a fantasy land, like these guys aren’t real human beings. But the one thing I can consistently say about my guys is they’re fan-accessible. It’s the way that it is. And it’s never going to be perfect, but we treat our fans better than any other sports league does. We’re going to have times when guys are gonna say some stupid stuff, but I handle them on a case-by-case basis.
-- As told to Bryan Armen Graham