The reinvention of Gegard Mousasi has been an absolute thrill to watch both inside and (especially) outside of the Octagon. Once perceived as one of the more lackadaisical, emotionless fighters in the sport, Mousasi has been fighting with a sudden and often thrilling sense of urgency in recent years and absolutely verbally destroying anyone standing between him and success along the way. It's a heel turn that has felt both completely out of character and like a breath of fresh air, to be honest.
Take last weekend, for example. After defeating Chris Weidman in a bizarre, legally questionable TKO at #UFC210, Mousasi – now a free agent – engaged in a lengthy rant about fighter pay with the media, naming names and pulling out pretty much every card in the book in an attempt to be heard.
"I've defeated Jacare, I've defeated Mark Hunt, I've defeated Dan Henderson...all these guys I have defeated, they're making more money than me. What is it, my nationality? Do you want me to dye my hair blonde? What the f*ck? I am one of the best, so I should get paid as one of the best!"
And now, Dana White is firing back.
When asked to respond to Mousasi's comments at the evening's post-fight press conference, White gave his rundown of just why the fighters Mousasi mentioned are making what they are.
“Dan Henderson has been in the game forever," said White. "Mark Hunt has an entire country behind him. When we do fights in Australia, he sells out arenas. Gegard Mousasi isn’t selling out arenas. That’s why you see guys like Bisping, different fighters from Brazil, Conor McGregor. When you have guys who have countries behind them, it’s a game-changer for them. Not everybody has that luxury.”
Currently, Mousasi has headlined 4 smaller show events for the UFC – none of which have taken place in his native Holland* – which makes White's stance seem like an off-base one to take. Regardless of his drawing power however, it would behoove the UFC to shell out a little extra cash to free agents like Mousasi and Jacare Souza, lest they find themselves with a suddenly shallow middleweight division.
Hopefully for both parties, this back-and-forth will only serve as a minor hiccup in an otherwise lucrative relationship moving forward. It was White, after all, who brought Mousasi to the UFC in the first place and has not shied away from stating his desire to keep him there.
“Listen, I’m a Gegard fan. I’m the one who who brought Gegard in here. I like the guy very much.”
*Though Mousasi was born in Iran, he relocated to the Netherlands with his family at the age of 4 and has lived there ever since.