Thursday, March 25, 2010 | 8:20 p.m.
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NEW YORK — Mixed martial arts isn't quite sanctioned yet in the state of New York, but that didn't stop the UFC from invading the Radio City Music Hall on Wednesday for its pre-fight press conference for this weekend's event at the Prudential Center in nearby Newark, N.J.
White is known for sitting down with the media following press conferences and shooting straight answers to any questions they may have leading up to an event. Here are some highlights from the recent chat.
'I love Manny Pacquiao'
White was one of the many celebrities that showed up for the highly anticipated boxing match between Manny Pacquiao and Joshua Clottey on March 13 in Arlington, Texas. The fight was the first main-event boxing match at the newly built Dallas Cowboys Stadium.
Many believed White's main reason for attending the bout was to determine whether he could take a UFC event there in the future.
However White said he wanted to go to the fight for the same reason the rest of the near-51,000 crowd wanted to go — to see Pacquiao.
"I went there to watch Manny Pacquiao," White said. "Then I did end up seeing the stadium and saying, 'Wow, this is nice. We could do this.' Even though that fight sucked, it wasn't Manny Pacquiao's fault. He went after it so much to the point where he was dropping his hands hoping Clottey would open up.
"I think Manny Pacquiao is boxing right now. The thing I love about him is when you start hitting him, he starts firing back. He doesn't budge. I love Manny Pacquiao."
What about Gray?
Current lightweight champion B.J. Penn has mowed down nearly every top contender in his weight class and has made it clear he intends to move back up to the welterweight division.
What White isn't willing to do is allow Penn to keep his lightweight belt while fighting in the welterweight division.
"Nobody is holding onto the belt and moving around," White said. "Either they give up the belt or they stay at that weight."
Penn has his next title defense against Frankie Edgar next month at UFC 112 in Abu Dhabi and, if he wins, White says he'd be fine with letting it be his last.
That may be disappointing news to Las Vegas-based lightweight Gray Maynard, who likely would have been the next fighter to get a shot at Penn.
"If he wins (over Edgar), he's annihilated an entire division in my opinion," White said. "I don't think he'd have to stick around to fight Gray Maynard. We could let someone else slide into that spot."
Superfight seems unlikely, Silva too big
Fans were allowed to ask questions during Wednesday's press conference and more than a couple wanted to know what Georges St. Pierre thought of moving up in weight to take on current middleweight champion Anderson Silva.
St. Pierre was reluctant to address the questions, stating he didn't want to look past this weekend's fight with Dan Hardy.
When asked the same question, White admitted he was crazy about that matchup before watching Silva so easily move up to the light heavyweight division for a fight with Forrest Griffin last August.
After watching Silva knockout Griffin that night, White said he doesn't see how a fight between St. Pierre and Silva could work.
"Nobody loves a superfight more than I do, believe me," White said. "I was all about doing that fight until I saw Anderson move up to 205. That guy looks like he belongs at 205. I just think you're going to see Anderson move up and not down."
Frank Mir's controversial comments
During a radio interview in February, UFC heavyweight Frank Mir was quoted as saying he wanted to kill rival Brock Lesnar in the octagon.
The comments quickly circulated the Internet and had Mir in trouble with UFC brass.
White said he's always the first to stand by his fighters and knows firsthand that things can be taken out of context, but Mir's had crossed the line.
"No one backs up their fighters more than I do when people make mistakes," White said. "But to say something like that — the problem is that there are people that really believe (Mir) could break his neck on Saturday. These are misconceptions I fight everyday.
"Mir said, 'I want this to be the first death in MMA.' You can't say that. I understand you're emotional, but you can't say that."
UFC is good for economy
With the UFC still trying to get MMA sanctioned in the Big Apple, White said he can't comprehend why a city would even consider telling his organization not to come, considering the financial help it brings with it.
White, who also said he'd like to take events to Buffalo and Syracuse when New York sanctions the sport, pointed out that everything, such as hotels and shopping centers, benefits when a fight is in town.
"Right now, financially a lot of people are hurting," White said. "When the UFC rolls into town, you've seen these places where we've put on a Fight Night and send 10,000 tickets. By Friday, the whole place is hopping. The hotels are sold out. People are eating in the restaurants and shopping at the mall.
"With the financial crisis going on right now, you'd have to be nuts to not let the UFC come into town and do an event."