Instant Reaction: UFC 187

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There was once a time when Dana White, not Conor McGregor, was the UFC's biggest star.

White was the ultimate fan favorite. He was accessible in a way that no other sporting organization commissioner would dream of making themselves available.

To wit: One night in 2011, I received a text from White asking what I was doing. I, of course, was doing nothing as usual. He told me to come up and meet him at one of the big Las Vegas nightclubs.

I met him at his booth in the club an hour later, but the only words we exchanged were a quick "what's up" and a bro head-nod. That's because a long line of adoring fans had formed leading from the booth all the way to the back of the club. There were roughly 400 fans, on a random Las Vegas Saturday night, waiting for White's autograph.

It took him two hours, but he signed autographs for every single fan and then departed for the night, leaving those of us in the booth with a smorgasbord of free liquor. And this wasn't a special one-time-only thing, either.

This is what White did. He mingled with the fans. He went to random locations in whatever city the UFC was running an event in that week and tweeted his location; the fans would come running and find White standing with a handful of free tickets for the event.

But mostly, the fans loved him because he was unpolished and he spoke the truth. He called it like he saw it, even if it meant taking the shine off one of his own fighters. As a media member covering his organization, I knew I could ask White a question and he would respond truthfully, or he wouldn't respond at all.

My, how times have changed.

These days, the running joke is that if White says something isn't happening, it's most definitely happening. If he says something isn't true, it is almost certainly true. In his defense, this isn't always the case; he is occasionally still honest to a fault. But those moments seem to be increasingly rare. Dana White the promoter has fully overtaken Dana White the accessible and honest fight fan turned executive.

2017 hasn't been the best year for White's bluster. If you're looking to pick his worst moment from a lineup, it's something of a tough call. My vote, though, goes to his pathetic scolding of Jason Aldean after the Las Vegas mass shooting in September that left 59 dead and 527 injured.

Aldean, who was on stage during the shooting, opted to perform on Saturday Night Live the following weekend instead of accepting White's invitation to perform the national anthem at White's UFC event in Vegas. White did not respond well to Aldean's decision, calling up his personal news mouthpiece TMZ to issue one of the grossest and most pathetic threats these ears have heard in quite some time.

"His image was more important than coming back to Vegas and playing for the people who are his fans and who got shot watching him play. F--k you, Jason Aldean. Stay out of Vegas."

The thing is, White actually does a lot of good for the community of Las Vegas that doesn't get reported on, because he doesn't want it in the news. Sources close to him told me he was incredibly active in the aftermath of the shooting, providing resources and money to help those affected by the horrible tragedy.

But all the good he did was overshadowed entirely by his inability to stop acting like a bully. White trashed a survivor of a mass shooting—a man still dealing with the fact that dozens of his own concert-goers were murdered in cold blood—and then told him to stay out of Vegas, like a caricature of a mob film villain.

There are plenty more instances of White acting like a fool in 2017, but for this one alone, he's one of the year's biggest tone-deaf turkeys.

-->Jeremy Botter

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