Dana White talks Ngannou-Gane, Moreno-Figueiredo 3 and Covington-Masvidal

UFC president Dana White previews Saturday's UFC 270 with Yahoo Sports' Kevin Iole.

Video transcript

KEVIN IOLE: Hey, everybody. I am Kevin Iole. We had a little fun off camera before we started here. My guest right now, UFC 270 on Saturday in Anaheim. A huge card. And the UFC President, and now who I refer to as Dr. Dana White, is my new guest now. Dr. Dana, how are you?

DANA WHITE: Good. How are you?

KEVIN IOLE: I am doing awesome. Really excited about this fight card, UFC 270. Let's start. There's so many positives on the fight card. Let's start with one small negative thing.

I'm hearing more about Francis Ngannou's pay than I'm hearing about Francis Ngannou the fighter. What's going on there? Why can't we get this narrative out there? We have one of the best heavyweight fights the UFC has ever put on. And most of the conversation is about is Francis Ngannou going to be back?

DANA WHITE: Yeah, no this happens all the time. This is nothing new for me. Over the last 20 years we get these situations sometimes. But whether you take all the negativity and drama that surrounds the fight, it's all part of it. It's all part of the story line and all part of the fight.

I mean, you have the bad blood between these two. They both came from the same camp, the same trainer, all that stuff. But at the end of the day, the fight speaks for itself. You got Francis Ngannou who is the heavyweight champion of the UFC. The guy's on a five fight win streak. 100% finish rate, taking on Ciryl Gane who is undefeated 10 in 0 and arguably the greatest striker in the history of the heavyweight division.

And it's not like this is one of those fights where you have this knockout artist versus a jiu-jitsu guy. The jiu-jitsu guy's got to get them down to the ground. This is striker versus striker. Raw power versus technique.

KEVIN IOLE: I mean, what Ciryl Gane did to Derrick Lewis in August was incredible, that fight. He just totally defused Derrick's power. And I guess that's why the odds are what they are. I'm looking at the numbers, Dana, right now for BetMGM. Are you surprised at this? Ciryl Gane is up to -150 favor. You can get Ngannou, the champion, who as you said, has a 100% knockout rate +125.

DANA WHITE: Holy [BLEEP]. Yeah, I didn't know that. But I love fights like this where you have this champion with this type of power and the interim champion who's coming in is actually the odds on favorite to win. That's what makes this fight. Some people get sucked in by the drama and all the other stuff that goes on, the bad blood. But at the end of the day, this fight will absolutely positively speak for itself.

KEVIN IOLE: I want to ask you if you feel this way. A Francis Ngannou fight reminds me in a way of a Mike Tyson fight. Because you know you were at Golden Gloves Gym back in the day when Tyson would train and everything, right? And you would see that. You just knew something crazy would happen.

Francis could be getting beat for four rounds, and four minutes of the fifth round. And he still has that punching power that could end the fight on that spot. And that kind of ability just excites people. And there's always like you know you have a buzz in the pit of your stomach when Francis Ngannou fights because you don't know what's going to happen. Is that fair for you to say? Do you have that too when he fights, do you kind of get that little butterfly in your stomach?

DANA WHITE: It's so true. Absolutely. And when you get a heavyweight championship fight like this, I'm telling you know you've been to a million. The buzz and the energy in this place on Saturday night is going to be insane. We're

Sold out. We haven't been back there for like two and half years. In Southern Cal, it's going to be incredible. We broke the record for that arena, was held by the Rolling Stones $3.5 million. We had it at one point. The Stones got it at $3.5 million. We get it again. The gate for this fight is $5 million.

KEVIN IOLE: Oh, wow. That's amazing.

DANA WHITE: Yeah.

KEVIN IOLE: Do you think the pay per view numbers will translate with that? Because generally when you have a big gate like that, the pay per view numbers generally translate. You get a big number. Do you see the early returns saying that may happen?

DANA WHITE: 100%. Yeah, this is a big fight for us on Saturday.

KEVIN IOLE: That's awesome. You know in the co-main event, Brandon Moreno, to me he needs to win this fight because I think he has the potential to be a star for you. What a personality this kid has, and just a charismatic guy. And what a fighter.

I love the story of a guy who was cut in the UFC and comes back and becomes a world champion. But do you agree with me? Like do you feel like this kid has the star qualities? Because there's a lot of good fighters, right? But it's a special thing to become a star, become an attraction. You haven't had that really at 125 yet. He might be your first star if he can beat--

DANA WHITE: He already is. He already is. I mean, I've been saying this to everybody. Watch Saturday night when that kid comes into the arena. You don't realize it until you do. We do some of these signings and things like that with them. This kid's a huge star. And you're really going to see it and feel it on Saturday.

KEVIN IOLE: You know it's been interesting, and I think you said Mick rebuilt your flyweight division for you, right?

DANA WHITE: Right.

KEVIN IOLE: Mick Maynard, one of your matchmakers. You had some great flyweights in the past. But it seemed like nobody ever really hit like you know Cejudo because of what he had done. But you know nobody hit where they're as popular as Brandon seems to be. Why do you think the division has taken off? And what's the key to Brandon's popularity?

DANA WHITE: Yeah, well obviously first Mexican born world champion for the UFC. And yes, I mean the division is rebuilt with straight killers. I mean, all these guys that are in this division now are killers. We finally got a Mexican born world champion.

The trilogy between him and Figueiredo is awesome. Figueiredo is a savage. This guy comes into destroy you. The division couldn't be any more exciting.

KEVIN IOLE: Yeah. I mean you know there was talk after Figueiredo lost in June that he was going to end up going to bantamweight, which I thought at the time was the right move. And I still question it a little bit. But my questioning of Figueiredo is a little less now after-- I'm sure you saw the picture he posted of his body. And I mean, he was shredded. Like unbelievably shredded.

So it would've been eight days before the fight. He posted it last Friday. Did you see that? And what kind of Intel do you have on the shape that Figueiredo is in? Because that's been the one big question about him in flyweight, can he make the weight?

DANA WHITE: Yeah. No, I agree. I did not see the picture. We're looking for it right now so I can check it out. That's good to hear. I want to hear that he's taking this thing serious, that he's in the-- oh my God.

KEVIN IOLE: Yeah. Hold that up because it's incredible. Yeah.

DANA WHITE: Can you see it?

KEVIN IOLE: I do. Yeah.

DANA WHITE: Yeah, he's shredded. He looks good man. I love it. So that's a good sign that he's going to come in on weight and we're going to have a great fight.

KEVIN IOLE: And you know what's interesting, I picked Figueiredo to win the fight. My intention was probably all along after seeing the second fight, hey, Moreno is going to win this fight. And then I saw how Figueiredo looks. And I thought you know this guy is taking it serious. And he's an amazing guy and what he has.

But he is a big underdog as well. Moreno is -170, which surprised me. I thought this might be a pick and fight. And Figueiredo is a +140.

DANA WHITE: That's fascinating. Yeah. The odds on these fights are very interesting.

KEVIN IOLE: You know what's different too Dana, and I know you guys have a sponsorship with DraftKings. Caesars Sportsbook is with ESPN. Back in the day in boxing you would see the odds would always be pretty much the same and there would be very little movement between them. But on a lot of your fight cards the numbers are different from sports book to sports book. So there's value there for bettors who if you have an opinion you can find a number that works for you.

DANA WHITE: It's so true. I love the fact that you get to shop around and get the best possible line. And I think that's because of the money that's being laid down at these different casinos. Lawrence Epstein, our COO, was just telling me they ran some data on people vote betting on UFC fights last year. It was off the charts.

KEVIN IOLE: Yeah.

DANA WHITE: That's at the El Cortez downtown. You know what I mean? So you could imagine the action that like Caesars and places like that is getting.

KEVIN IOLE: Yeah. For people who don't know, El Cortez is one of the older hotels in Las Vegas. Kind of a small hotel, not a lot of traffic. I think it's probably, my guess would be, mostly local traffic would be in there in the El Cortez. So if they're doing record numbers down there like you say, MGM, Caesars Palace, those ones are going to go crazy.

DANA WHITE: True.

KEVIN IOLE: Well, let's talk about one that actually there's not a lineup yet. I saw some preliminary lines people put up. Colby Covington versus Jorge Masvidal. I love the fight. And it kind of proves my point that we had an argument a while back when I said you didn't need a title fight in the main event and you said you did. This one's not a title fight and it's the main event of UFC 272.

I love the fight. Colby Covington is a fairly significant favorite in the early numbers. I don't know that anybody officially has a number out. But I saw people were saying 275 up to as high as 350. Does that surprise you?

DANA WHITE: No, it doesn't because that kid looks so good. You know what I mean? If Kamaru Usman did not exist, Colby Covington would probably be the champion right now. I got a question for you, now that you asked me. Somebody just asked me this. Yeah. Somebody just asked me this a little while ago. Who do you think are the best three UFC fighters of all time?

KEVIN IOLE: Oh, that's an interesting question. So Jon Jones, of course. I would say no doubt Jon Jones. Khabib would be number two. Number three I'm going to have a group, and I'm going to give you an answer who I think. But the ones I'm considering would be George St-Pierre, Kamaru Usman, and Demetrious Johnson.

I think based on strength of schedule I eliminate Demetrious. So I now go to George St-Pierre and Kamaru Usman. And I'll go with Usman. I mean, he's been undefeated for a long time. I think the sport is better now than it's ever been. And there's better athletes in this sport. And so I think he's beating better guys than GSP did. GSP beat some--

DANA WHITE: Of his time, right.

KEVIN IOLE: OG. Yeah. But I think when you look at it overall Usman has had more. So those would be the three I would say.

DANA WHITE: We're very aligned. I picked Jon Jones. I picked Kamaru Usman. GSP, Kamaru Usman, GSP, and--

- Anderson.

DANA WHITE: Anderson Silva.

KEVIN IOLE: Over Khabib?

DANA WHITE: Yeah. Anderson just did more. He was there longer. The dominance of Khabib is unbelievable. And like you say, it's a different day and era with different levels of skills. But yes, I was curious to see what you would say. We're very aligned.

KEVIN IOLE: It's a very fun debate. I always love those kind of debates. It's one that's like you can't really prove but everybody has their opinion. When I look at Khabib, Dana, so look at Justin Gaethje. Look at how he looked against everybody else and look how we looked against Khabib.

DANA WHITE: So true.

KEVIN IOLE: Amazing. So, hey, how did you get that Masvidal fight done? I know Colby didn't seem to be so interested in that fight for the longest period of time. The bad blood between them and he didn't want to give them the "payday" quote unquote. Was it a hard negotiation or did both of them kind of realize their situation and accept it?

DANA WHITE: Yeah. They both wanted it. They both know it's the fight to make.

KEVIN IOLE: That, to me now, maybe I'm not thinking correctly. But off the top of my head I mean, to me it's you almost have to have a championship fight to be a million seller pay per view in the main event. But that might be that one rare one if you have some stuff happened between now and March that you might go off and have a really big number with those two guys promoting the fight.

DANA WHITE: Yeah. We think it's a big fight too. Plus at the end of the day you're going to stay home on Saturday night and watch a fight if you know it's going to be a great fight. You know that's going to be a great fight. People don't like Colby, but let me tell you what, Colby shows up to fight man. He shows up the fight. And these two hate each other so bad. It's just going to be a great fight.

KEVIN IOLE: Do you think it hurts Colby at all, not the fight with Usman but after when he's embracing Usman and he says to him, it's all love. I was just trying to sell the fight and everything. So I think we all kind of knew that, right? But now that he's caught on camera and microphone saying that, you know that the schtick is [BLEEP] and it's not really legit. Do you think that hurts him? Because I think he made himself into a star by the bad guy image, right?

DANA WHITE: Well, it doesn't matter. All that matters is the fight. Whatever people say to each other before the fight, all that goes right out the window. I mean before the Usman Covington fight was even made, the second one, all I kept talking about is that the first one was one of the best fights I've ever seen.

KEVIN IOLE: Right.

DANA WHITE: You know? So at the end of the day, listen, if you got a guy that goes out and talks a lot of trash and then goes in and stinks the place up there's nothing worse than that. There's nothing worse than a talker that doesn't deliver.

KEVIN IOLE: Right.

DANA WHITE: That is not Colby Covington.

KEVIN IOLE: No, I agree with that. He delivers. He comes in. And another guy who delivers I want to ask you about. Maybe I'll stick up for him a little bit is Henry Cejudo. He wanted to take the fight against Volkanovski, a two division champion in the UFC. And you didn't really have much interest in that. And I know you know GSP came back after a four year layoff immediately into a middleweight title fight main event against Michael Bisping. I don't know--

DANA WHITE: He didn't come back immediately. There's so many different little pieces of the puzzle. I heard John McCarthy was talking a bunch of [BLEEP] about this.

KEVIN IOLE: Well he put a tweet out. Yeah. He didn't talk a bunch, unless he said something later that I heard. But he put a tweet out saying that he deserved the fight.

DANA WHITE: OK. I heard that he was talking [BLEEP] about it. So I'll refrain from saying what I was going to say. So the reality, first of all, who knows, and even in the USADA pool. I mean, there's just so many things that people don't understand what it takes for this to happen.

George St. Pierre was still in USADA. You know what I mean? He would have to get into USADA again. And there's a period of time that he would have to be tested. He couldn't just take a short notice fight in a different weight division. There's so much more to it than that.

KEVIN IOLE: And I know that happened with Brock Lesnar that fight. And was a Mark Hunt fight I guess. It was the infamous Mark Hunt fight. That's never going to happen again where a guy always gets cleared. Do you think it's fair to say that was a one off? That Lesnar was able to get in without having the six months in the pool before?

DANA WHITE: USADA was testing him. He was tested leading up to that fight.

KEVIN IOLE: Right.

DANA WHITE: He tested negative four times before he got into that fight.

KEVIN IOLE: Right. Anyways I mean, I think everybody would love to see Cejudo against Volkanovski in the absence of Max Holloway. Given how good Cejudo has been. And certainly you were asking me about who the best fighters were. I mean Alex Volkanovski is quietly moving up there. Look at what he's doing. How many wins in a row does he have? 20 some wins. Something like that.

He's beaten Max Holloway twice, Brian Ortega. All of a sudden Volkanovski he's under the radar. But you've got to start talking about Volkanovski as one of the best.

DANA WHITE: You are absolutely right. You're absolutely right. Yeah. The thing is too was Cejudo was retired. There's a way to go about, if you really want to fight, if that's what you really want to do, like you want the Volkanovski fight. What you don't do is-- I mean, you could go online and start talking to Volkanovski and calling them names and doing all this stuff.

But what you really have to do is pick up the phone and call. And say, hey, what's the procedure I need to follow to get back into a fight? I want to un-retire. And when can I get back into USADA saddle pool, how fast? And what do I need to do? That's how you get a fight. His manager has 280,000 fighters under contract in the UFC.

KEVIN IOLE: Ali Abdelaziz.

DANA WHITE: Cejudo has been here forever. If you really want to fight, get down here and make some calls. Say, hey, what do I need to do to get back into the fight? I want to jump back in.

[INTERPOSING VOICES]

DANA WHITE: You don't call people out and call them names on Twitter and then expect we're going to pick up the phone and go, hey, we got to fight for you. We're going to do you and-- come on, man.

KEVIN IOLE: So you don't think he's serious about this thing?

DANA WHITE: What?

KEVIN IOLE: Do you not think he's serious?

DANA WHITE: Well, then get it done. You know how to do it. Have your manager call over here and get the deal done. That's why I was saying the other night when we're sitting there and the media saying, well Henry Cejudo said this and this guy said that.

This is a silly conversation. This is ridiculous to even talk about. You're asking me about a retired fighter that isn't anywhere near coming back to take on Alexander Volkanovski, who's in a different weight class in a short notice fight. Why are we talking about this? How does this make sense? If he really wants fight, get on the phone with your matchmakers and get the ball rolling.

KEVIN IOLE: Well, let's go one angle off of that fight, Max Holloway. I was really disappointed that fight was postponed. What is Holloway's injury? And how long is he out?

DANA WHITE: God, off the top of my head I want to say it's a hand. I want to say it's a hand or a hand as an old injury. I can't remember what happened with Max. And I don't know how long he's out.

KEVIN IOLE: OK. All right. Well, that's too bad. I mean we love to see him come back. Now I know you've been doing a lot of interviews today. And you broke some news earlier, you said March 19 in London now an official show. That's on, correct?

DANA WHITE: Did I say March 19 in London? Can somebody--

KEVIN IOLE: I saw on Twitter where it says on Barstool Sports you said March 19 in London. And it was going to be Jared Gordon against Paddy the Baddy.

DANA WHITE: Paddy Pimblett, yeah. Did I say the date?

- You didn't say the date.

DANA WHITE: I don't think I did either. I don't think I said the date, but yeah we did say it was in London.

KEVIN IOLE: OK.

DANA WHITE: Yeah, that's what we're working on.

KEVIN IOLE: No I saw you're working on that. For whatever it matters, Brian Butler responded to the tweet saying that he's the manager of Jared Gordon. He hasn't heard from the UFC on that fight yet.

DANA WHITE: Yeah, March 19 is the date.

KEVIN IOLE: Is that the O2?

DANA WHITE: And that's the problem when people ask me that [BLEEP]. Then you've got a goofy [BLEEP] manager going I haven't [BLEEP] heard from them yet. You know what I mean? Yeah. That's a problem.

That's why I don't like to do this [BLEEP] when people ask me. And I'm like, oh just throw me a bone. And I'm sitting in here and it's on the [BLEEP] thing. I don't know if the guy's got the deal done yet. You know what I mean? And then you got that guy going on [BLEEP] Twitter. It's just a huge cluster [BLEEP]. That's exactly why when people ask me I don't like saying it.

KEVIN IOLE: I got you.

DANA WHITE: You always got that guy who's got to [BLEEP] jump right on Twitter. I manage him. And I don't know about this. Oh, [BLEEP].

KEVIN IOLE: Well, I'm going to end it on a more fun note. February 5 you got a fight card. Jack Hermansson is going to be fighting Sean Strickland.

And now Strickland has really fascinated me. I mean, I think he's made a lot of improvement as a fighter. Love what he's been doing as a fighter. But he's also doing this a lot, right Dana? And he's saying some crazy outlandish things. It's almost like Colby Covington-esque getting in. How do you see that fight going? And what do you make of Strickland where he's at in his career right now?

DANA WHITE: Yeah. I mean, the guy is his tough nasty, mean, and fun to watch. So yeah, I always look forward to his fights. And you never know what this guy is going to say or what he's going to-- he's a fascinating human being.

KEVIN IOLE: Yeah, no doubt. Well, I lied. I want to ask one other thing. Khamzat Chimaev, obviously my favorite guy to ask you about. What do we have for him? We still don't see his name on a schedule.

DANA WHITE: Don't even get me going. I'll try to give you something. It'll be round two. We're working on him though. Obviously huge fan favorite and everybody wants to see him back. So we're working on it. As soon as we find out and get something done, you'll be the first to know.

KEVIN IOLE: All right, you heard it here first. All right. Anyway, we're going to let you go, Dana. I appreciate your time UFC 270 on Saturday at the Honda Center in Anaheim.

Two title fights at the top are going to be explosive. Going to really be fun. I'll be there. I look forward to seeing you there, Dana. Thank you so much and all the best.

DANA WHITE: You too, buddy. Have a great day.

KEVIN IOLE: You too, see you.

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