To Dana White, "UFC Undisputed 2010" is about more than just making a quick buck off of a license. Sure, the original game sold in excess of 3.5 million units, but the UFC president sees the bigger picture of what it really means to his company. And if White's calculations are correct, the game is just the first step in building MMA fans for life.
"People who buy the game aren't just learning about these fighters. Through the gameplay they're learning all of the moves and submissions, what they're all called, how to set them up," White told me as we met for an interview in Mandalay Bay's Mix Lounge in Las Vegas. "This is huge for us and for our continued growth, and it's especially good for our fighters. Even if you don't play as them in the game, you're constantly seeing their names or you remember the guy who knocked you out and then you want to go and watch him knock someone out for real."
But standing in White's way of a repeated sales knockout this year is video game juggernaut EA Sports. The creators of iconic games like "Madden" and "NCAA Football" are stepping inside the virtual cage for the first time with "EA Sports MMA".
"It will be interesting to see how they do," said White, "but having an MMA game without the UFC license is like trying to make 'Madden' without the NFL.
"EA Sports had the opportunity to get this license, but they told me: 'That is not a sport. We will never get involved in that.' They wouldn't even meet with us. EA Sports wouldn't even meet with us about making a UFC game. Then when our game is so successful, they're like the me-toos trying to jump on board. But one thing about our fans, they're very loyal. They don't put up with stuff like that. It's not even about whether the game is good or not. It's about EA Sports being pompous and arrogant and not giving us the respect we deserved when we originally approached them."
Then again, White explained, if the UFC license was an EA Sports property, it might not have received the attention to detail and expertise that THQ has brought to the table. To THQ, the UFC license isn't just another game. "UFC Undisputed 2010" is the most important game in their catalog.
Said White: "If we ended up with EA Sports, we wouldn't have ended up with the game we have now, I truly believe that. They were completely disrespectful to the sport of Mixed Martial Arts and the athletes.
"And while our first game with THQ was great, the improvements they've made to the sequel are incredible. It's like night and day. The guys from THQ told me that the people making the game won't even play last year's game anymore. There's that much of a difference."
As for White's record playing the game against his fighters, "I was undefeated last year until Georges St. Pierre beat me," he said with a laugh. "GSP, you're going down in "UFC Undisputed 2010."