BJ Penn and Dana White seem to have a decent working relationship now, but as some of you probably remember that wasn’t always the case. Back in 2004-2005 Penn left the UFC to fight for K-1 and let’s just say their split wasn’t very amicable. Obviously, the two sides made up and Penn eventually returned to the UFC, but that doesn’t mean all is forgotten.
BJ Penn released his new book Why I Fight last week, but not without a little drama behind-the-scenes. According to a report on SI.com, the UFC didn’t pre-approve the book and Dana White had several issues with its content. Dana seems to be cool with Penn now, however the book’s co-author David Weintraub didn’t make out so well. He claims he lost his job with Exit 9 Films, a company that produces promotional content for the UFC, as a result of the dispute.
So what was all the fuss about anyways? Well, I can’t say for sure, but I imagine this excerpt from the book that Bloody Elbow pulled has a lot to do with it. Keep in mind this was in the pre-TUF era when MMA was thriving in Japan, but gasping for air in the US.
K-1 was offering me $187,500 per fight – five times what the UFC was offering – and I was still willing to stay with them for one-third of that amount. This was when the relationship took a turn for the worse, and my view of White changed drastically. From that point on, I knew when it came to money, we couldn’t trust him to treat us right. Did I like him at the dinner table? Sure. But at the negotiating table? Not at all. The pressure to perform and safeguard other people’s money had changed him, even though he was constantly bragging to anyone willing to listen about how ‘big this thing was going to be.’ Things between us would never be the same.
When it was finally official I was going to fight in Japan, White called me up and told me his true feelings. ‘You motherfucker! You’re fucking done! You’ll never fight in the UFC again! You’re finished. You’re scorched earth, motherfucker. Scorched earth. Don’t call me crying saying you want to come back because you’re fucking done!’ And on and on and on, like a true professional – even going so far as to tell me I would never see my face again in a UFC video, promotion, or anything else. He also planned on removing my fight with Hughes from the UFC 46 DVD so no one would even know who I was. ‘It doesn’t have to be this way,’ I told him. ‘You know it wouldn’t take that much to make this work.’ But he just kept yelling.
Does that sound like Dana? Sure does, but don’t forget this is only BJ Penn’s side of the story. I imagine if you ask Dana White his, it would be vastly different than Penn’s. And like most things, the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle. We’ll never know, but fun jog down memory lane, no?