Wednesday, November 24, 2010

An Open Letter to Dana White

Dear Mr. White,
I know you will probably never read this letter, but I think this needs to be said as an MMA blogger, MMA fan and a father. If you ever do read this, I sincerely hope that you will take what I say to heart.
I am a faithful fan of the UFC. I have been since the first one when there was no rules and a total clusterf***. I have seen it evolve into the profitable cultural phenomenon it is now. I don't watch every PPV. They are too expensive for me to order every one, and my wife puts the wallet rear naked choke on me. I will go out to bars and hang out with friends to watch PPV's when I have the chance and haven't neglected my family or anything. (My wife is really hot, like she makes Arianny Celeste look like Janet Reno, so I cherish when I get to spend time with her.)
I also like you, Dana. I would lie if I didn't say I admired you. You have one of the best understandings of promotion I have ever seen. I see honesty, humility and enthusiasm when I see you on screen. When I saw you live at UFC 103, you were more popular with the crowd than Tito Ortiz AND Jenna Jameson combined. And you spent time taking pictures and autographs with everyone there. You understand where you came from and you seem to appreciate it: the fans, Vegas (Jesse Walker incident anyone?), sponsors. So you can mock me for total Man crush on him. From the book of Job, "Mock on."
Dana, I love the UFC. I love the sportsmanship. I love the uncertainty of outcomes. I love The Ultimate Fighter. I love the commentators (even Joe Rogan with his red eyes). I love Arianny Celeste and the rest of the Octagon Girls. I love your heroes: Couture, Liddell, Rampage. And I love your villains: Lesnar, Koscheck and Ortiz. But there's one thing I don't like. The UFC's lack of female fighters.
Let me speak to you as an MMA fan first. Strikeforce & Bellator have MMA female fighters. There are plenty of great female fighters out there: Sarah Kaufman, Marloes Coenen, Miesha Tate, Cris Cyborg, Roxanne Modafferi (whom I have a 13-year-old schoolgirl crush on), Jan Finney, Zoila Frausto. Let's talk about some of these fighters. Remember that slam Sarah Kaufman had on Modaffari? How about Coenen upsetting everybody (except me) by beating Kaufman? What about the big fight of Cyborg-Gina Carano? What about Jan Finney getting her a** handed to her by Cyborg yet still not going down? Dana, you claim to bring the biggest fighting around. Why do you not offer a female division?
This past Saturday, I had the privilege of watching a local event from North Texas Ultimate Fighting. There were two 17-year-old girls making their debut. They were cute and looked like they should be planning their prom dresses rather than a rear naked choke. There were 11 fights that night. The fight between the two girls was electric. The crowd was into this fight more than any other fight I've seen live. (Dos Santos-Cro Cop was probably the closest I'd seen before that.) This was a big fight. Both girls gave everything. How do you not reach out for the same electricity on a scale like yours?
Now I speak to you as a parent. My daughter is nearly a year and a half. Her universe centers around bath time, her pink bouncy ball and watching Fraggle Rock (though she did watch a surprising amount of Ultimate Fighter with me this past week). But I'm concerned about the coming years. My wife is the best role model for our daughter. I know that and am very happy. She also has two exemplary grandmothers and a great-grandmother, three aunts who make her the center of her universe, a rocking great-aunt who loves to spoil her and is involved often in her life. She also has a wonderful babysitter who runs a home daycare (also a major UFC fan). She has some great role models to follow after. And there are some women I admire in the public eye: Miranda Cosgrove, Condoleezza Rice, Kerri Walsh & Misty May-Treanor, Michelle Obama, Tina Fey. But other than Cosgrove, she's not going to be watching Michelle Obama on Disney or Nickelodeon. Who in the sports/entertainment world is there for my daughter to admire? Danica Patrick? Checked out a commercial lately? Lindsay Lohan? She got kicked out of a role playing Linda Lovelace, a woman best known for her role in a pornographic film. Britney Spears? A singer who sings about a threesome? Halle Berry? Seen Swordfish? How about Monster's Ball? "Yep, Pumpkin, I want you to be like them."
All the female fighters I mentioned above I admire and respect. I'd love my daughter to be like Sarah Kaufman, Miesha Tate & Marloes Coenen. Those are strong, powerful women who, at the same time, embody class, grace and beauty.  I also want my daughter to look at their sense of sportsmanship. When do you not find a fight where they hug after? In the world of sports, when baseball players charge mounds, football players get into brawls, and 95% of hockey fans just go for the fights, a sport like MMA is refreshing. I want my daughter to take that principle of sportsmanship to her every day life.
I noticed something else during the girls' fight. There were little girls there, 6, 7, 8 years old. The only time they paid any attention during the night was to watch the girls fight. They connected to them. This is something you cannot ignore. For all I know, the two girls fighting keep little kittens in the basement and torture them before sacrificing them to Glenn Beck. But what I know is that those little girls in the crowd cared about what happened in the outcome of that fight. Dana, you build that brand loyalty now, you will have fans for life.
Dana, you have a lot of power in this industry. But as Peter Parker's Uncle Ben told him, "With great power comes great responsibility." I believe you owe it to the fans to bring us the best fighters possible. And until you put Sarah Kaufman, Cris Cyborg or Marloes Coenen in the UFC Octagon, you are not giving us the best fighters in the world. I also believe that you owe it as a public figure to bring us positive role models for our kids. In an era where LeBron James, Tiger Woods & Ben Roethlisberger reign supreme, it's refreshing seeing role models like GSP, Randy Couture & Jose Aldo reign supreme there. Can we have some female role models I can point my daughter to?
As always, you know I am a huge fan of you and the UFC. I write to you because I think you can help.
Justin Ruff

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