UFC president Dana White has a simple message for fighters dreaming of competing in the world-famous octagon: Don't do business with EA Sports.
In an edict that started as a rumor on Internet message boards, White stated after Saturday's historic UFC 100 event that he was "at war" with the popular video-game developers and that those that side with EA Sports will find themselves out of the UFC's good graces.
But perhaps surprising to some, White insists it was EA Sports that fired the first salvo in the still-developing controversy.
To quote: "It's easy to sit on the other side of the table and judge me on how I react to stuff like this," White said. "But let me tell you what - I've been in the trenches for almost 10 years, and I've been dealing with all these businesses, and EA was one of them."
EA Sports holds the publishing rights for several of the market's most successful sports-related video games, including the Madden NFL, FIFA, NASCAR and Tiger Woods PGA series. White said the UFC had hoped to join the ranks of those titles, but the California-based EA Sports declined to discuss the possibility.
"EA Sports told us, 'You're not a real sport,'" White said. "'We wouldn't touch this thing. We want nothing to do with this.'"
With EA Sports passing on the rights to the UFC's video game license, rival software company THQ elected to partner with mixed martial arts' biggest promotion. The company's first effort, "UFC Undisputed 2009," has shipped approximately 2 million units since its May release according to White, and the fiery exec is upset that EA Sports is now changing their tune with the recent announcement of a forthcoming "EA Sports MMA" title.
"We put our asses on the line, THQ and the UFC, to make a video-game deal in the worst economy in the world," White said. "We go out there and do this thing, and it's successful, and now [expletive] EA Sports wants to do a video game. Really? That's not what you told us a year-and-a-half ago.
"You told us you'd never be in business with us. They wouldn't even take a meeting because mixed martial arts disgusted them. This wasn't a real sport. Boy, they got over that real quick, didn't they?"
White views EA Sports' tactics with obvious disapproval, and he's made it clear that any fighter who signs over their likeness to the new project will be blacklisted from the UFC.
"I'm not tap-dancing around this thing or whatever," White said. "I'm telling you straight-up, I'm at war with them right now. That's how I look at it."
While former UFC champion and currently contracted UFC fighter Randy Couture is expected to appear in the EA Sports offering - a matter White says the company worked through with "The Natural" during a recent court appearance - the UFC president said not to expect that trend to continue.
"You won't be in the UFC," White said about additional fighters who sign with EA Sports.
Despite reports that Nick Diaz, Mohammed "King Mo" Lawal, Jason "Mayhem" Miller and Jake Shields - all potential targets to fight for the UFC in the future - have agreed to appear in the EA Sports title, White told MMAjunkie.com he's not sure who the software company has secured for the upcoming MMA game.
But White remains firm in his decision, and he believes he's doing it for the right reasons.
"You know what the difference is?" White asked. "I'm in the mixed martial arts business. EA isn't.
"EA doesn't give a [expletive] about mixed martial arts. They made that very clear."
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