For the most part, a fight becomes a fight in MMA when there’s bad blood between the principals. Conor McGregor’s deifying 13-second knockout of José Aldo wouldn’t have been as cathartic if there wasn’t a healthy amount of hatred in the air. Anderson Silva and Chael Sonnen did big-time pay-per-view numbers because of mutual irreverence and disdain, fight odds be damned. And the Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier rivalry has gotten so personal that to hear them speak is like eavesdropping on real-life mean girls.
None of those come close to the roiling bad blood between current social media rivals Brendan Schaub and Dana White. Those guys really don’t like each other. Schaub, a former heavyweight UFC fighter turned podcaster-cum-comedian, ripped White in an Instagram post on Wednesday that gave new meaning to “Below the Belt”—not incidentally the name of his newish show on Showtime—after White dismissed Schaub as an inconsequential coattail rider.
Every good fight needs a backstory, so let’s back up.
Upon watching prolific kickboxer Gökhan Saki get knocked out by Khalil Rountree at UFC 226, Schaub explained on his Showtime show that kickboxing doesn’t necessarily translate to success in mixed martial arts. (This is a fairly uncontroversial opinion, for what it’s worth.) That prompted the kickboxer-turned–UFC fighter Israel Adesanya—a burgeoning star who headlined an Ultimate Fighter card just a day prior to UFC 226—to construct an Instagram post of people yawning and rolling their eyes at that particular cold take.
Among the many commenters on that post was Dana White, who loves himself some Israel Adesanya (a member of the ephemeral new generation of UFC superstars he’s eternally trying to build). White told Adesanya to ignore the troll Schaub, for Schaub was a mediocre fighter on his best day.
“Such a fuckin tool!!!!” he wrote. “What the fuck does this idiot know about the sport or the business??? @stylebender for u to be listening to one word from this MORON is a waste of ur time. Guy went 6-5 in the UFC!!! The only thing he could teach u is how to get KO’d. Tune idiots like this OUT.”
That prompted the “idiot” Schaub to fire back, leaving Adesanya in the middle of it.
“@danawhite whoooooooa look who got a break from folding Ronda’s laundry to jump on instagram. Bravo sir. He’s right @stylebender what do I know listen to the bald fat guy who has never been in a fight in his life. Do that.”
That’s Ronda as in Ronda Rousey, the transcendent former UFC star whom Dana has always adored and recently inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame, and whom Schaub at one time dated. This feud has many lit corners. It didn’t stop there. After Schaub paused a moment to clear the air with Adesanya—“You’re a monster,” he wrote, “I was referring to guy with Lil mma Experience (Saki) was my main point coming straight to UFC or major mma leagues. You have a ton of experience in mma before getting to the UFC”—White went back in on Schaub.
“He’s successful?” he answered a Schaub defender on Instagram. “As soon as Rogan stops carrying him he will disappear”—referring to Joe Rogan, the UFC commentator and prolific podcaster who’s had Schaub on his podcast numerous times.
That signalled to Schaub that the gloves were off. “This is hilarious,” he replied, expanding the theater of war to Twitter. “Yes, Joe Rogan one of my best friends has played a significant role in my post fight career, no doubt, you’re right about that DW. Two tv shows, sold out world wide comedy tour, two successful podcast, and just booked my first major movie. Super grateful. HOWEVER, if it weren’t for the Fertitta’s loaning your ass millions of dollars to invest into an idea that wasn’t yours from the start you wouldn’t be SHIT. How’s it feel to know once the real businessmen/Brains left, the UFC has been a shell of its self with you at the forefront. You’ve tried it all CM Punk experiment, begging Brock [Lesnar] to come back, and praying at night for a Conor [McGregor] text. Tough job to do with out Lorenzo holding your hand making sure you don’t mess it all up. Can’t feel good. You’d be a cardio kick boxing coach in Boston in your 40’s, hoping to grab a ticket to my stand up front row if Lorenzo Fertitta didn’t save your ass. Also, this is NO way Eskimo brothers should talk to one another. Last warning.”
Last warning? Praying for a Conor text? Eskimo brothers? With Adesanya, Lorenzo Fertitta, Ronda Rousey, and Joe Rogan all stuck in the middle, like innocent children in a battle for custody? Forget the social media feud.
These motherfuckers need to fight.
Let’s break down what you could expect if they actually did.
When Dana White came into the UFC back in 2001, he was a welterweight. A strong gust of wind would have toppled him. Still, he had an impressive aerobics background, having been an instructor back in Southie, and a tenacity that came from his days running bags as a bellhop. He started boxing at 17, which is the source of much of his bravado and confidence. He also showed an early ability to get into people’s heads; to win a fight before the bell ever rang—a kind of psychic manipulation through authority. These things aren’t what you might call tangible, which in a sporting sense makes them intriguing.
Over the years White developed a rivalry with Tito Ortiz that he hoped to one day consummate with a fight. That never materialized, but his waistline did—as did his chest, arms, and shoulders. These days White is a heavyweight, packing plenty of power, bulk, and deep dish. You can see the gaps between his arms and body when he walks. Does he have one-strike KO power? It doesn’t matter. People will pay for the chance to see him get KTFO. Even he understands that particular psychology. That’s why when EA Sports released UFC 3, White was a playable character. It was a chance for everyone to kick the UFC president’s ass as often as they wished, and twice after dinner.
But what does Schaub have left in the tank? The last time we saw “Big Brown” was for his fight against Rousey’s now-husband, Travis Browne, back in 2014. He got handled, losing via first-round TKO to a barrage of punches. Before that he lost a split decision against Andrei Arlovski, which he hung tough in. Schaub fans still actively remember his knockout of Mirko Cro Cop and him blasting the hell out of Brock Lesnar’s old sparring partner, Chris Tuchscherer.
As far as I can determine, Schaub’s chief intangibles are his ability to make people laugh and his friendship with Tim Tebow, which shouldn’t be ignored. Tebow’s positive attitude spreads like a virus, and Schaub has a bit of that shine. Still, White’s bellhop experience trumps any silly associations to an all-time great Denver Broncos quarterback.
Schaub has demonstrated some decent agility for a big man, a lightness on his feet to get him out of harm’s way, and plenty of athleticism. We saw flashes of that when he beat Gabriel Gonzaga and plowed through Chase Gormley. In his orthodox stance, he can set up that right hand by using his left jab as a joust, like he did with Cro Cop back at UFC 128. Schaub fired the jab many times to keep Cro Cop from coming in and landing that big left kick, which was of course Cro Cop’s “cemetery” kick (“right leg, hospital; left leg, cemetery,” he used to say).
Just when Cro Cop got comfortable, Schaub uncoiled a big right hand late in the fight that dropped him like his bones had been disintegrated. Schaub will be tempted to try to find that bull’s-eye on White’s chin, too, especially because White’s head movement is like the fighters’ talk of unionizing—slow to nonexistent.
As for White’s striking ability, well, there’s no delicate way to approach it so I’ll just come right out and say it—it’s a sham. Studying hours of tape, I found myself fixating on the SportsNation exchange from a few years ago. White likes to load up on the right hand, as you can see, but it’s not like he has it in him to knock a mandible into the mezzanine. In fact, his fist might blow up like a powder pouch if it found Schaub’s chin squarely. Though the technique is nearly flawless, and the punch in question here finds its mark, the power it registers on the force scale is a “1.”
That’s “1” out of infinity, which puts it toward the lower half of the heavyweight division. Unless he and Schaub sign up for a 100-round fight in which Dana can beat him on the scorecards via Chinese water torture, Schaub is the bigger threat on the feet.
Schaub has trained with Rener Gracie in Los Angeles, talked kinetic chess with jiu-jitsu enthusiast Joe Rogan, and tapped out Matt Mitrione with a D’Arce choke back at UFC 165 in Toronto. All of that would seem to add up to an “advantage” over White, whose name doubles as the rank of his belt in jiu-jitsu.
Still, go back and watch Schaub’s grappling match with Roberto “Cyborg” Abreu in Metamoris 2, a contest that played closer to performance art than it did a “competition.” Actually, don’t go back and watch that. Go rent the Hungarian movie The Turin Horse, instead, which is a black-and-white film about a couple of farmers who live out an isolated existence in which eating potatoes becomes the most exciting part of the day. Nothing much else happens, other than at the beginning when Nietzsche goes mad seeing the horse in question get whipped by a cabman, and the looming threat of a storm. That was everything you need to know about Schaub-Abreu. Except it was the people in attendance who ended up going a little crazy, as Schaub blew the steam off his potatoes.
Aside from all that, there’s the simple fact White doesn’t have a neck. Can’t squeeze what’s not there. And on top of that, White’s arms do not bend, making Kimuras, armbars, and other lofty-minded submissions impossible. White is, essentially, a non-articulated human action figure.
One thing I like about White is that he invites anybody he goes up against to hit him with their best shot, because—he assures us—he can take it. Obviously we haven’t seen a puncher of Schaub’s caliber test that theory, but we did see Nate Diaz hit him pretty clean with the Stockton Slap. To this day the particulars of that fight are interpretable, but what is clear is that right there in broad daylight Diaz unleashed a mean right palm that came into direct contact with White’s temple. White didn’t fall. He took it like he was proud to have done it … like it didn’t even hurt (when you damn well know it did).
That’s pretty good toughness.
Schaub has been on the brutal end of some vicious knockouts. Roy Nelson tried to turn him into particles when he hit Schaub in The Ultimate Fighter 10 finale. Ben Rothwell and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira did the same thing eight months apart between 2011 and 2012. And of course Browne did it in Schaub’s last fight.
Still, Cro Cop busted Schaub’s nose up pretty good and Schaub kept coming forward. He can take a punch. And remember what we said about White’s power. That power has the total impact force of 12 angry mosquitoes. I like Schaub’s ability to weather anything White throws at him, with the one concern being that—if Schaub himself should connect with something big—White falls on him like two tons of flopping mackerel.
White doesn’t need sleep, at least not like a regular person. He is a vampire. He has been known to boast that he sleeps only a few hours a night, and that when he wakes up he’s dealing in bad shit before his first slippered foot hits the ground. None of that has anything to do with cardio, but it’s something to keep in mind about the parallels between him and, say, a 7/11. There’s warmth in the idea that he’s always open, and that people are always loitering around him drinking beer.
Schaub, meanwhile, was an athlete before he ever segued into fighting. He was a football player at the University of Colorado, and went on to have a cup of coffee in the NFL. He is used to training; going to the gym has long been a part of his life. Like any good athlete, he’s prone to marvel at himself in the mirror. That, too, has very little to do with cardio, but this is a hypothetical fight so let’s not get precious. Besides, it tells you a little bit about the stamina to be found in his vanity, which is an extension of heart.
Given these facts, I like Schaub to outlast the normally inexhaustible White. I think he’s got more in his tank, and all the additional weight that White has packed on over the years will come back to haunt him.
So Who Wins the Battle of the Eskimo Bros.?
Schaub wins this hallucination of a fight walking away, but it might be closer than people think. “Big Brown” has more power in his hands, and more ways to get it done. The old puncher’s chance doesn’t apply to White here, but he is a gamer, and gamers are always dangerous—not to mention he’s an MMA don with bodyguards on payroll, and can rig things with a snap of his fingers. Even that wouldn’t save him, though. Because Schaub is an actual fighter, I can’t help but think that would play a, what would you call it … a key factor in the bout. White would get his head dribbled off the canvas, to the delight of his haters everywhere. It’ll never happen, but it’s fun to think about.