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BJ Penn: “When it Came to Money, We Couldn’t Trust Dana White to Treat us Right”

Written by Tom Ngo
April 21st, 2010
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Last week when former lightweight champ BJ Penn released his autobiography, Why I Fight, many wondered why UFC president Dana White and Co. refused to endorse their athlete’s life story. Well, the first excerpt of the book has just hit the Internet and it’s clear why the modern day Don King didn’t want fans reading what Penn had to write.

After the Hawaiian captured the UFC welterweight crown by upsetting Matt Hughes at UFC 46 in January 2004, he and White were engaged in a bitter contact squabble which resulted in Penn signing with K-1, a popular Japanese promotion.

Here’s how Penn interpreted the bitter divorce and his one-sided telephone conversation with White:

“K-1 was offering me $187,500 per fight – five times what the UFC was offering – and I was still willing to stay with them for one-third of that amount. This was when the relationship took a turn for the worse, and my view of White changed drastically. From that point on, I knew when it came to money, we couldn’t trust him to treat us right. Did I like him at the dinner table? Sure. But at the negotiating table? Not at all. The pressure to perform and safeguard other people’s money had changed him, even though he was constantly bragging to anyone willing to listen about how ‘big this thing was going to be.’ Things between us would never be the same.

When it was finally official I was going to fight in Japan, White called me up and told me his true feelings. ‘You motherfucker! You’re fucking done! You’ll never fight in the UFC again! You’re finished. You’re scorched earth, motherfucker. Scorched earth. Don’t call me crying saying you want to come back because you’re fucking done!’ And on and on and on, like a true professional – even going so far as to tell me I would never see my face again in a UFC video, promotion, or anything else. He also planned on removing my fight with Hughes from the UFC 46 DVD so no one would even know who I was. ‘It doesn’t have to be this way,’ I told him. ‘You know it wouldn’t take that much to make this work.’ But he just kept yelling.” – BloodyElbow.com

For those that are too lazy to break out a calculator, Penn is claiming that K-1 offered him $187,500/fight, when the UFC was only willing to pay him $37,500/fight. Although he was down to accept as little as $62,500/fight to remain with the UFC, the asking price was still apparently too high for White.

After he became aware of the book, White told SI.com that he approached Gary Levitt, the Penn family lawyer, and asked, “Why would you put out a book that is 90 percent not true?”

“I asked him why he would write lies in there and he swore to me that he didn’t write it or read it,” White said. “So did Gary. If today they are saying they didn’t say that, then I feel sorry for them.”

Why I Fight was co-authored by 36-year-old David Weintraub. The freelancer works for the New Jersey-based production group Exit 9 Films and was responsible for shooting behind-the-scenes material used in bonus features for UFC DVDs and webisodes on UFC.com.

According to Weintraub, UFC executive vice president of operations and production Craig Borsari told Exit 9 Films that he was “no longer welcome to work for the UFC.”

“I’m very happy I wrote the book, but I’m also very disappointed the UFC decided to force my employer to cut me loose,” said Weintraub. “Dana is trying to make it seem like I wrote a book about BJ.

“One-hundred-percent false. All the words in that book are the words and thoughts of BJ Penn. I’m a co-author, my job is to help him put his thoughts to words. He’s read the manuscript. The manuscript became the book.”

Despite all that White threatened Penn with, he returned to the Octagon at UFC 58 in March of 2006. It was believed the pair rebuilt the bridge that had both torched, however now that the lightweight has brought this not so pleasant – yet definitely private – conversation to light,  there’s no telling if their relationship will ever be the same.

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