Dana White banned Paul Daley for life, so why won’t that happen to Conor McGregor?
As angry as UFC President Dana White was with Conor McGregor in the minutes following the former champion’s frenzied attack of a bus carrying new lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov and several other fighters on April 5, White’s calm two days later is what struck Paul Daley.
“At the end of the day,” White told reporters following UFC 223 in Brooklyn, “there’s a lot worse that goes on in all the other sports. So I’ll take a dolly through a window any day … .”
Strange how that shift toward leniency with the popular Irishman McGregor differed from the zero-tolerance attitude aimed at Daley, a black fighter from the United Kingdom whom White permanently banished from the UFC in 2010.
Like McGregor’s filmed throwing of a hand truck through the bus window, Daley’s transgression was widely seen.
After continued bickering with welterweight opponent Josh Koscheck before and during the co-main event of UFC 113 in Montreal, Daley sucker-punched the victorious Koscheck in the octagon following the bout, and White was furious.
“I don’t care if [Daley] fights in every show all over the world and becomes the best, and everybody thinks he is the pound-for-pound best in the world,” White fumed afterward. “He will never fight in the UFC again.”
White remains true to his word even though Daley didn’t face any criminal charges from his incident, and Koscheck won a title shot against then-champion Georges St-Pierre seven months later after participating as a coach in the reality television series “The Ultimate Fighter.”
In McGregor’s case, he faces two felony charges of criminal mischief and 10 misdemeanors from New York prosecutors for leading a band of associates to confront Nurmagomedov following a UFC pre-fight news conference that injured two fighters because of flying glass, Michael Chiesa and Ray Borg, and forced them off the card. McGregor has a June 14 court date in Brooklyn.
“I knew it was going to play out the way it did,” Daley told the Los Angeles Times and USA Today in a recent telephone conversation organized by Daley’s current promoter, Bellator MMA. “The difference between me and McGregor is the amount of money that McGregor brings to the UFC. That’s it. That’s always going to be the case.
“Was what McGregor did worse? Yes, of course it is. He and his team forced themselves into the Barclays Center. They attacked a bus of people. Me and Koscheck? It is completely different.”
White was asked about the disparity in treatment in a Monday text message sent by The Times, but did not immediately respond.
While Daley, 35, is hopeful his May 12 bout in San Jose against former UFC fighter Jon Fitch will move him toward a title shot, the charismatic McGregor stands as the UFC’s most powerful draw, after earning $100 million in a novelty boxing match against Floyd Mayweather Jr. last year, and becoming the organization’s first fighter to ever simultaneously own belts in two divisions in 2016.
McGregor posted a tweet this past weekend with a photo himself, sitting on a porch in a reflective pose: “It is only a lesson if you learn from it. I learn every day.”
Daley said he felt he was appropriately remorseful immediately after his incident.
“There were a few apologies. I wrote an email. I dictated a letter to the commission and to Dana White. I apologized personally to Dana White and since then in interviews,” Daley said. “The thing for me that is crazy … I was the first and only fighter banned for life from the UFC. I was young, three fights in. I fought the No. 3-ranked guy, beat him. I fought Dustin Hazelett [to win a knockout-of-the-night bonus]. I was in position to fight [St-Pierre].
“It happened very quick. It didn’t really sink in, sort of like a dream. I didn’t fathom how big everything was. … It was a split-second reaction from a young man, myself, who was new to the sport and didn’t realize the reaction. My punching Koscheck or swinging for him after the bell … I didn’t account for the millions of people watching at home or the thousands of people in the audience. I was very unaware to the magnitude of the whole thing.”
White’s discipline made him completely aware, but the UFC’s tolerance shown to more marketable former champions Michael Bisping for spitting and Jon Jones for multiple positive drug tests has underlined something else.
“It is a shame, but I understand that is business,” Daley said. “To me this is another thing.”
Daley stopped just short of labeling the inexact treatment racism.
“It is a very touchy subject to speak about race and I am not really that guy,” Daley said. “That being said, from a media and an entertainment point of view, I do find it a little funny how McGregor can get away with acting a certain way and being considered just a showman and selling fights and then maybe someone like Floyd Mayweather … he is deemed too flamboyant, showing off his money and arrogant.
“It is a touchy subject.”
He said he had the impression White “never liked me from the start.
“One thing he did say to me and I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before … . After the Hazelettt fight, I did a celebration, he was knocked out cold and I did like a shotgun — I pointed an imitation shotgun and took a shot at [Hazelett] on the floor and just before the post-fight press conference Dana White came up to me and said to me ‘Paul, if you want people to like you, stop this gangster [stuff].’ That is exactly what he said to me. And that is a real ironic thing, considering the way McGregor has acted.
“It is weird. It’s double standards, but hand on the Bible, that is a quote, his exact words.”
“Plain and simply, yes, but it’s a business and it is all down to money,” Daley said. “Obviously it is double standards. [McGregor] should be treated exactly the same as I was treated. But it’s Conor McGregor and he makes the UFC money so … . I like the kid, but it is obvious Dana White is not going to let this guy go.”
White said after UFC 223 that he had been eyeing a September date for McGregor. Now, that comeback might be delayed until the late fall.
“If they let McGregor go, they have nothing,” Daley said. “Dana knows that. Hence, why can he attack a bus load of people, damn near ruin a whole weekend event, cut up Michael Chiesa, do all that [stuff], break one of Dana’s staff’s hand, and still be allowed to fight?”
Follow Lance Pugmire on Twitter @latimespugmire
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