5 UFC champions that Dana White never liked
UFC president Dana White is undoubtedly the greatest promoter in MMA history, but he’s also a highly combustible figure who is renowned for falling out with his fighters from time to time. And often, even the UFC’s champions have been no exception.
White is usually highly supportive of his champions, but on some occasions, the UFC has had a titleholder that the promotion’s president just couldn’t get along with.
Sometimes these champions clashed with Dana White over money, and on other occasions it was simply a matter of respect. But regardless, despite their lofty status in the UFC, they were never popular with the president.
Here are five UFC champions that Dana White never liked:
#5. Cris Cyborg – UFC women's featherweight champion
For a long time, it felt like Cris Cyborg would always be on the outside of the UFC looking in. When the UFC bought out Strikeforce in 2011 and assimilated its fighters onto their roster in 2013, Cyborg was never brought in despite being that promotion’s reigning featherweight champion.
No official reason was given, but it was clear that Dana White wasn’t a fan of the Brazilian, even labeling her “Wanderlei Silva in a dress” in one notorious interview.
By 2016 though, the UFC had clearly decided that Cyborg’s value as a fighter outstripped the fact that she was supposedly tricky to work with. They brought her in for two fights at a 140 pounds catchweight, and when it became clear that she’d never make 135 pounds, decided to install a 145-pound division primarily to suit her.
However, problems between Cyborg and White began when she claimed she couldn’t make weight for the UFC’s inaugural title fight in the weight class. The UFC instead went for a fight between Holly Holm and Germaine de Randamie, and it looked like Cyborg would once again be on the outs with the promotion.
Surprisingly though, cooler heads once again prevailed, and when de Randamie refused to defend the title against Cyborg, the UFC stripped her and made a title fight between the Brazilian and Tonya Evinger instead. Cyborg duly won the title and then appeared to become one of the UFC’s go-to stars.
But despite bailing the UFC out on late notice by offering to main event UFC 222 in 2018, it was always clear that Dana White wasn’t fully on board with the Brazilian, and once she lost her title to Amanda Nunes, things quickly turned sour.
Cyborg continually demanded a rematch, but simply couldn’t come to terms with the UFC over it, with White claiming on multiple occasions that the Brazilian wasn’t really interested in another clash with Nunes.
She fought once more in the UFC – a win over Felicia Spencer – before coming to a mutual agreement to leave the promotion. According to White, he was “out of the Cyborg business” and seemed happier for it.
#4. Tim Sylvia – UFC heavyweight champion
Tim Sylvia’s reign as UFC heavyweight champion could hardly have begun in worse fashion. After he captured the title from Ricco Rodriguez in 2003 and defeated Gan McGee in his first defense, he tested positive for anabolic steroids and was suspended by the Nevada State Athletic Commission, resulting in him being stripped of his title.
That didn’t put him fully on the outs with the UFC, though, who were willing to forgive and forget and immediately gave ‘The Maine-iac’ a shot at the vacant title upon his return. At that stage, Sylvia felt every bit the company man.
However, when he recaptured the title from Andrei Arlovski in 2006, his relationship with the UFC swiftly went downhill. He won the title with an exciting knockout, but his first two title defenses, against Arlovski in a rematch and then against Jeff Monson, were dull fights that angered UFC fans.
Dana White was clearly relieved when Randy Couture defeated Sylvia for the title in early 2007, and the relationship between the two didn’t get any better when Sylvia asked to fight Brock Lesnar when the former WWE star arrived in the UFC in 2008. Sylvia’s request was turned down, and when he then demanded his release from the UFC, he was quickly granted it.
‘The Maine-iac’ went onto fight for the short-lived Affliction promotion, but unlike others who fought under that banner, he was never brought back to the octagon afterwards.
According to Sylvia himself, the reason for that was because White held a grudge against him.
#3. Tyron Woodley – UFC welterweight champion
When Tyron Woodley won the UFC welterweight title in 2016 by knocking out Robbie Lawler, it felt like ‘The Chosen One’ would go on to become a superstar. But despite putting together four successful title defenses, he never quite reached the heights that many felt he would.
One reason for this may well have been his fractious relationship with Dana White. Woodley often accused the UFC of treating him unfairly when it came to the way he was promoted, which seemed to baffle White, who went onto label him the most difficult fighter he’d ever worked with.
White also claimed that he didn’t actually dislike Woodley, but at times it was hard not to come to that conclusion. After all, the UFC president was visibly frustrated with Woodley’s title defenses against Stephen Thompson and Demian Maia.
In fact, the UFC president outright slammed ‘The Chosen One’ after the fight with Maia, stating that nobody would want to pay to see him fight after his efforts and that there was no way he’d book him in a fight with Georges St-Pierre.
More recently, White has slammed Woodley’s upcoming fight with YouTuber Jake Paul, labeling the clash a “bunch of bullsh*t” and declaring Woodley’s claims that he’ll be making more money from the fight than he did in the UFC a lie.
#2. Tito Ortiz – UFC light heavyweight champion
The relationship between Dana White and Tito Ortiz was not always fractious. In fact, when Ortiz first rose to fame in the SEG-owned UFC, White actually acted as his manager. If that were not the case, White’s friends the Fertitta brothers may not have become involved in the UFC.
But while the Zuffa buyout was good for the UFC, it was not good for the relationship between Ortiz and White.
While Ortiz, the reigning UFC light heavyweight champion, was positioned as the UFC’s poster boy, things quickly became strained when ‘The Huntington Beach Bad Boy’ decided he was worth more money than the promotion was offering.
Ortiz, in particular, felt that he deserved far more money than what he was offered to fight his former training partner Chuck Liddell. And so, he essentially sat out, forcing the UFC to create an interim title and souring his relationship with White for good.
Ortiz lost the title to Randy Couture in the eventual unification bout, but his relationship with the UFC would never be the same again. And nor would his relationship with White fully recover, as the two embarked on a major feud and were even set for a boxing match at one stage before Ortiz nixed it.
In recent times, however, the two seem to have become more cordial, with White even congratulating Ortiz when he won a seat on the Huntington Beach city council in 2020.
#1. Randy Couture – UFC heavyweight & light heavyweight champion
While Dana White’s relationship with Tito Ortiz was often fractious, the UFC champion who angered the promotion’s president the most must easily be Randy Couture, who found himself essentially blacklisted by the UFC on two separate occasions.
It wasn’t always that way. Couture was the UFC heavyweight champion when White took control of the UFC in 2001, and he was largely positioned as one of the promotion’s poster boys.
In 2003 he became the first man to have held two UFC titles in different weight classes when he won the UFC light heavyweight title, and in 2005 he famously coached the first season of The Ultimate Fighter alongside Chuck Liddell.
Things went awry, however, when Couture won the UFC heavyweight title for the third time in 2007. ‘The Natural’ was desperate for the UFC to sign former PRIDE champion Fedor Emelianenko for a fight with him, but when negotiations fell through, Couture decided he would walk away from the UFC.
Although White didn’t publically slam Couture, he was clearly furious with him, and essentially blacklisted him from the promotion until ‘The Natural’ agreed to return to the fold in 2008.
It appeared that White was willing to forgive and forget following the end of that sorry episode, and Couture was once again positioned as one of the UFC’s go-to stars. However, after his retirement in 2011, ‘The Natural’ stunned everyone by suddenly walking away from a broadcasting role with the UFC to join their competitor Bellator MMA.
That caused White to erupt, and he finally revealed his true feelings on Couture, stating that he didn’t respect him at all and that “the only time that Randy Couture is a man is when he sets foot in the cage.”
It was one of White’s angrier interviews, which, given his combative nature, said a lot about his terrible relationship with one of the ultimate UFC legends.