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Media

Dana White’s Slap-Fighting League Debut on TBS Delayed

  • TBS pushed back the first episode of the White's Power Slap league by a week.
  • Move comes days after footage of White's physical altercation with his wife surfaced.
Power Slap
Power Slap

Dana White’s slap-fighting league was slated to debut on TBS next week, but the UFC’s president’s altercation with his wife at a Mexican nightclub on New Year’s Eve put the show in some limbo. 

The episode of Power Slap — scheduled to follow AEW at 10 pm on Jan. 11 — is no longer on TBS’s lineup for that night. In its place will be a “Young Sheldon” rerun. The Power Slap’s page on TBS’ site was empty on Thursday. 

Power Slap is now scheduled to debut on Jan. 18, a TBS spokesperson confirmed to Front Office Sports.

Lionsgate subsidiary Pilgrim Media Group produced the series, and the broadcast deal was negotiated outside UFC’s streaming and broadcast deals with ESPN. 

“The sport of slap fighting is about to go to a whole new level,” White said at a press event to announce the TV deal in November. 

White did not return messages left by Front Office Sports. Several messages Lionsgate, UFC, and UFC’s parent company (Endeavor) also were not returned.

ESPN declined to comment and is the only company with a major business relationship to respond to FOS since White’s incident was published by TMZ on Monday. 

While the Nevada Athletic Commission licensed Power Slap in October, the league won’t be a Turner Sports property like the NBA and NHL. Instead, the entertainment side of TBS is handling the broadcasts. 

There are no indications that authorities in Cabo San Lucas are investigating the incident. A police spokesperson told FOS information on such assaults is “private.”

Typically in Mexico, such assaults minus serious injury would require a complaint by one of the victims. As her husband did, Anne White apologized for her role in the altercation to TMZ — which appears to rule such a complaint out. 

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“Dana and I have been married for almost 30 years,” Anne White told TMZ. “To say this is out of character for him is an understatement — nothing like this has ever happened before. Unfortunately, we were both drinking too much on New Year’s Eve, and things got out of control, on both sides. We’ve talked this through as a family and apologized to each other. I just hope people will respect our privacy for the sake of our kids.”

White was looking to help slap fighting take off via the episodic series as he did two decades ago with MMA with The Ultimate Fighter. 

In the early 2000s, White and the UFC couldn’t get arrested by TV networks. Led by the late U.S. Senator John McCain, critics derided mixed martial arts as “human cockfighting.” Out of concern, the new sport was too violent and bloody, TV networks large and small refused to air UFC events.

“We literally met with every network, every sports network — from the big broadcasters, NBC, ABC, CBS, the obvious, ESPN — multiple times,” Lorenzo Fertitta, the former UFC CEO, recalled to Sports Illustrated. “Met with anybody that would take a meeting. We couldn’t get anybody to bite because everybody was very concerned that the product was too violent, not something they could put on TV. It was too bloody. They didn’t want to see guys bleeding on the mat. TV executives were saying this is flat-out boring.”

Then White came up with the idea that would change sports TV history. Rather than trying to sell the rights to live events, nobody would televise, he pitched a reality series called “The Ultimate Fighter” to the male-focused Spike TV.

As part of the show, viewers would see taped UFC matches, introducing them to the niche world of combat sports and allaying the fears of TV networks and sponsors. White thought of the show as the “Trojan Horse” to finally sneak MMA onto basic cable TV. 

It worked. The wild first season of “The Ultimate Fighter” was a success for Spike in 2005, culminating in a classic series finale featuring a slugfest between Forrest Griffin and the late Stephan Bonnar.

There was a UFC match airing live on basic cable for the first time ever. As the two traded blows, sports fans across the country called each other and asked, “Are you watching this?”

Griffin won. But the match was so entertaining that White and the Fertitta brothers handed both fighters contracts. The UFC was saved.

Spike executives came begging for a season 2. “The Ultimate Fighter” has been on TV for 30 seasons, producing some of the promotion’s biggest stars like Nate Diaz. 

As White told SI:  “If I hired the best writers in Hollywood and they wrote that thing out, it couldn’t have played out any better than it did the entire season, including the finale.”

If that reality show helped the UFC achieve mainstream respectability, then the new reality show can do the same for Power Slap. 

Ronen Ainbinder contributed to this report. 

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